Black Hole Reads: The Dark Design


Resurrections have stopped in the Rivervalley, and someone is starting to notice there are very few people who died after 1983. Some new characters are introduced, and some of the old are not quite what they claim to be.

The Dark Design is the third instalment of the Riverworld series. The book is as thick as the first two put together.

It could have been shorter if there wasn’t so much repetition of how things work in the hereafter. This is probably for the benefit of readers who haven’t read the other books, but spoils the reading experience for those who are reading the whole series. Once again, Farmer stands out as a very inventive author who sometimes goes too far with digressions. Also, he could avoid being too technical and converting metrical to imperial and vice versa every time a measurement is given. However, it doesn’t get too dull, thanks to the intriguing subplots and the shift in the point of view from one character to the other, unlike the previous volume which was mostly centered on Sam Clemens.

I’m by no means saying that The Dark Design was disappointing. Like in every saga, one can’t expect the writing to be excellent 100% of the time. The story still holds my interest, for several reasons: it’s difficult to tell the bad from the good in this series, and this is an excellent way to keep up the suspense in adventure stories. Also, Burton and Clemens – the heroes of books one and two – are both back, and this makes you expect that at some point in the novel they will finally meet, thus allowing for their storylines to merge.

I had a moment of sheer intellectual pleasure when Alice quoted a few lines from Chile Roland to the Dark Tower Came. This confirms my theory that Riverworld and Stephen King’s The Gunslinger were both inspired by Browning’s poem.

I’m at the third book of the Riverworld series and still enjoying it: the idea at the base of it is original but I suspected the novelty would wear out after about 1000 pages. In spite of some minor flaws, that hasn’t happened. “Towerward ho!”


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