The Dark Design is the third book in the epic Riverworld saga, in which almost all of humanity has been resurrected on a strange planet along the shores of a river 22 million miles long. But why have humans been given another chance at life, and who is behind it all? That's what Sir Richard Francis Burton and Sam Clemens set out to discover in two earlier novels, one by riding the "suicide express" (if you die on Riverworld, you're resurrected again at a random point along the river) and the other steaming on the greatest riverboat ever seen. Now Milton Firebrass, Clemens's former enemy and now his No. 1 lieutenant, is planning to use the dwindling iron supply on the Riverworld to create a great airship, which can fly to the North Polar Sea far more quickly than any boat can travel. There he hopes to learn the secret of the mysterious tower thought to house the beings who created this planet.
Jill Gulbirra does not care as much about the mission as she wants the chance to captain the great airship, which in all likelihood will be the last airship ever constructed by humankind. But in landing the coveted role, she faces stiff competition--especially from the greatest swordsman of all time, Cyrano de Bergerac, who turns out to be a natural pilot. But even if Jill can win the command of the airship and even if the ship can reach the river's headwaters, there is no guarantee it can get through the mountain wall that surrounds the tower. And it's likely that one or more agents of the Ethicals--the creators of Riverworld--are on board the airship, plotting its downfall. Worse still, somewhere along the way the airship is sure to encounter the Rex Grandissimus, the steamboat stolen by Sam's archnemesis, King John Lackland. --Craig E. Engler
Farmer's blend of intellectual daring and pulp fiction prose found a worldwide audience. Sprawling, episodic works gave him room to explore the nuances of a provocative premise while indulging his taste for lurid, violent action. (The New York Times)
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The greatest science fiction writer ever. (Leslie A. Fiedler, author of Love and Death in the American Novel)
An excellent science fiction writer, far more skillful than I am. (Isaac Asimov)
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.