Philip José Farmer
The World of Tiers Series (1965–93)
This series exemplifies why PJF, who is arguably not a particularly good writer, has nevertheless become a very well-known and influential SF author. PJF's main asset is his seemingly boundless imagination. He conjures a phantasmagoria of fantastic worlds, described with an unparalleled vividness. Although usually classified as science fiction, and featuring some sci-fi devices, a lot of PJF's work, including the World of Tiers series, is actually fantasy, unbound by the restraints of the known sciences.
Many millennia ago, the Lords were a humanoid race on an incredibly advanced level of science and technology, allowing them to achieve virtual immortality and to create artifical "pocket universes" full of strange worlds populated by even stranger beings, created as subjects and slaves to the Lords. Through a history of wars with other races and among themselves, the Lords have been reduced in number and knowledge. The remaining Lords find themselves heirs to a technology they know how to use but no longer understand, incestuously related degenerates who revel in acting as gods in the face of the inhabitants of the worlds they consider their own. Their main sport is killing fellow Lords and taking over their universes.
The series depicts the adventures of the earthlings Robert Wolff and Paul Janus Finnigan alias Kickaha, who find themselves displaced to the World of Tiers, a ziggurat-shaped planet which gives the series its name, the Lords Jadawin, Anana, Rec Orc and many more, on chases leading through "gates" to many pocket universes and many perils.
Plot and characterization are second to the presentation of many marvelous worlds, some of them breathtakingly absurd and all of them very dangerous. Especially the first two novels are little more than episodes of wonder and action strung together with a plot that barely escapes inconsistency. The hackwork of a man writing for his living, I guess. Later on PJF's financial situation seems to have improved, as he takes more time to develop a story, but the basic style remains. I found The Lavalite World, entirely set on an incredible shape-shifting planet, to be the best book of the series, but I'm sure there is no lack of readers who will have a different favorite.
It is a matter of opinion whether Red Orc's Rage is part of the series. Actually, the book deals with troubled adolescents and their treatment through a psychiatric therapy based on characters from the World of Tiers series. However, part of the book is set in the imaginary(?) universes of the Lords and we learn the childhood history of Red Orc, the most prominent villain of the series. More Than Fire, which claims to be the final wrap-up volume, refers to those events.
Warped characters that are a Freudian's delight, action, adventure, and a wealth of highly imaginative settings. It's escapist, it might be trashy, but it's certainly fun.
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