His past a mystery and his present unbearably mundane, Robert Wolff is simply trying to buy a new house in Arizona when he stumbles upon a secret doorway through space and time and enters the World of Tiers. Made up of ascending levels of jungles, plains, medieval cities, and, at the top, a Garden of Eden, and populated by fantastical creatures, from nymphs and centaurs to merpeople and strange amalgams nonexistent on Earth, it’s beyond anything Wolff could have imagined in his previous humdrum existence. And when his youth is restored in the bargain, it seems he’s truly found paradise.
But there are dark forces in this new world, and Wolff is plunged into an epic quest up through the tiers, accompanied by Paul Janus Finnegan, another earthling, now known as Kickaha. Wolff’s journey to find Jadawin, the Lord of this world, will lead to answers about his own identity—and determine his fate.
Wolff and Kickaha will face off against feuding Lords—who hold the power to control private worlds of their own design—and the depraved Bellers. Devices originally created in the biolabs of the Lords, the Bellers are now conscious entities waging war on the Lords and their “pocket universes.” As they infiltrate the bodies of creatures throughout the World of Tiers and hunt down the Earth-born, the survival of all the worlds hinges upon the battle between the strangers from Earth and enemies disguised as their allies.
This omnibus contains the author’s preferred text, reprinted from the limited edition volumes published by Phantasia Press.
About the Author
His first published novella, “The Lovers” (1952), earned him the Hugo Award for best new author. He won a second Hugo and was nominated for the Nebula Award for the 1967 novella “Riders of the Purple Wage,” a prophetic literary satire about a futuristic, cradle-to-grave welfare state. His best-known works include the Riverworld books, the World of Tiers series, the Dayworld Trilogy, and literary pastiches of such fictional pulp characters as Tarzan and Sherlock Holmes. He was one of the first writers to take these characters and their origin stories and mold them into wholly new works. His short fiction is also highly regarded.
In 2001, Farmer won the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement and was named Grand Master by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America.
Read an Excerpt
The ghost of a trumpet call wailed from the other side of the doors. The seven notes were faint and far off, ectoplasmic issue of a phantom of silver, if sound could be the stuff from which shades are formed.
Robert Wolff knew that there could be no horn or man blowing upon it behind the sliding doors. A minute ago, he had looked inside the closet. Nothing except the cement floor, the white plasterboard walls, the clothes rod and hooks, a shelf and a light bulb was there.
Yet he had heard the trumpet notes, feeble as if singing from the outer wall of the world itself. He was alone, so that he had no one with whom to check the reality of what could not be real. The room in which he stood entranced was an unlikely place in which to have such an experience. But he might not be an unlikely person to have it. Lately, weird dreams had been troubling his sleep. During the day strange thoughts and images passed through his mind, fleeting but vivid and even startling. They were unwanted, unexpected, and unresistable.
He was worried. To be ready to retire from work and then to suffer a mental breakdown seemed unfair. However, it could happen to him as it had to others, so the thing to do was to be examined by a doctor. But he could not bring himself to act as reason demanded. He kept waiting, and he did not say anything to anybody, least of all to his wife.
Now he stood in the recreation room of a new house in the Hohokam Homes development and stared at the closet doors. If the horn bugled again, he would slide a door back and see for himself that nothing was there. Then, knowing that his diseased mind was generating the notes, he would forget about buying this house. He would ignore his wife's hysterical protests, and he would see a medical doctor first and then a psychotherapist.
His wife called: "Robert! Haven't you been down there long enough? Come up here. I want to talk to you and Mr. Bresson!"
"Just a minute, dear," he said.
She called again, so close this time that he turned around. Brenda Wolff stood at the top of the steps that led down to the recreation room. She was his age, sixty-six. What beauty she had once had was now buried under fat, under heavily rouged and powdered wrinkles, thick spectacles, and steel-blue hair. He winced on seeing her, as he winced every time he looked into the mirror and saw his own bald head, deep lines from nose to mouth, and stars of grooved skin radiating from the reddened eyes. Was this his trouble? Was he unable to adjust to that which came to all men, like it or not? Or was what he disliked in his wife and himself not the physical deterioration but the knowledge that neither he nor Brenda had realized their youthful dreams? There was no way to avoid the rasps and files of time on the flesh, but time had been gracious to him in allowing him to live this long. He could not plead short duration as an excuse for not shaping his psyche into beauty. The world could not be blamed for what he was. He alone was responsible; at least he was strong enough to face that. He did not reproach the universe or that part of it that was his wife. He did not scream, snarl, and whine as Brenda did.
There had been times when it would have been easy to whine or weep. How many men could remember nothing before the age of twenty? He thought it was twenty, for the Wolffs, who had adopted him, had said that he'd looked that age. He had been discovered wandering in the hills of Kentucky, near the Indiana border, by old man Wolff. He had not known who he was or how he had come there. He couldn't even speak English.
The Wolffs had taken him in and notified the sheriff. An investigation by the authorities had failed to identify him. At another time, his story might have attracted nationwide attention; however, the nation had been at war with the Kaiser and had had more important things to think about. Robert, named after the Wolff's dead son, had helped work on the farm. He had also gone to school, for he had lost all memory of his education.
Worse than his lack of formal knowledge had been his ignorance of how to behave. Time and again he had embarrassed or offended others. He had suffered from the scornful or sometimes savage reaction of the hill-folk, but had learned swiftly — and his willingness to work hard, plus his great strength in defending himself, had gained respect.
In an amazingly quick time, as if he had been relearning, he had studied and passed through grade and high school. Although he had lacked by many years the full time of attendance required, he had taken and passed the entrance examinations to the university with no trouble. There he'd begun his lifelong love affair with the classical languages. Most of all he loved Greek, for it struck a chord within him; he felt at home with it.
After getting his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago, he had taught at various Eastern and Midwestern universities. He had married Brenda, a beautiful girl with a lovely soul. Or so he had thought at first. Later, he had been disillusioned, but still he was fairly happy.
Always, however, the mystery of his amnesia and his origin had troubled him. For a long time it had not disturbed him, but then, on retiring ...
"Robert," Brenda said loudly, "come up here right now! Mr. Bresson is a busy man."
"I'm certain that Mr. Bresson has had plenty of clients who like to make a leisurely surveillance," he replied mildly. "Or perhaps you've made up your mind that you don't want the house?"
Brenda glared at him, then waddled indignantly off. He sighed because he knew that, later, she would accuse him of deliberately making her look foolish before the real estate agent.
He turned to the closet doors again. Did he dare open them? It was absurd to freeze there, like someone in shock or in a psychotic state of indecision. But he could not move, except to give a start as the bugle again vented the seven notes, crying from behind a thick barricade but stronger in volume.
His heart thudded like an inward fist against his breast bone. He forced himself to step up to the doors and to place his hand within the brass-covered indentation at waist-level and shove a door to one side. The little rumble of the rollers drowned out the horn as the door moved to one side.
The white plaster boards of the wall had disappeared. They had become an entrance to a scene he could not possibly have imagined, although it must have originated in his mind.
Sunlight flooded in through the opening, which was large enough for him to walk through if he stooped. Vegetation that looked something like trees — but no trees of Earth — blocked part of his view. Through the branches and fronds he could see a bright green sky. He lowered his eyes to take in the scene on the ground beneath the trees. Seven nightmare creatures were gathered at the base of a giant boulder. It was of red, quartz-impregnated rock and shaped roughly like a toadstool. Most of the things had their black furry, misshapen bodies turned away from him, but one presented its profile against the green sky. Its head was brutal, subhuman, and its expression was malevolent. There were knobs on its body and on its face and head, clots of flesh which gave it a half-formed appearance, as if its Maker had forgotten to smooth it out. The two short legs were like a dog's hind legs. It was stretching its long arms up toward the young man who stood on the flat top of the boulder.
This man was clothed only in a buckskin breechcloth and moccasins. He was tall, muscular, and broad-shouldered; his skin was sun-browned; his long thick hair was a reddish bronze; his face was strong and craggy with a long upper lip. He held the instrument which must have made the notes Wolff had heard.
The man kicked one of the misshapen things back down from its hold on the boulder as it crawled up toward him. He lifted the silver horn to his lips to blow again, then saw Wolff standing beyond the opening. He grinned widely, flashing white teeth. He called, "So you finally came!"
Wolff did not move or reply. He could only think, Now I have gone crazy! Not just auditory hallucinations but visual! What next? Should I run screaming or just calmly walk away and tell Brenda that I have to see a doctor now? Now! No waiting, no explanations. Shut up, Brenda, I'm going.
He stepped back. The opening was beginning to close, the white walls were reasserting their solidity. Or rather, he was beginning to get a fresh hold on reality.
"Here!" the youth on top of the boulder shouted. "Catch!"
He threw the horn. Turning over and over, bouncing sunlight off the silver as the light fell through the leaves, it flew straight toward the opening. Just before the walls closed in on themselves, the horn passed through the opening and struck Wolff on his knees.
He exclaimed in pain, for there was nothing ectoplasmic about the sharp impact. Through the narrow opening he could see the red-haired man holding up one hand, his thumb and index forming an O. The youth grinned and cried out, "Good luck! Hope I see you soon! I am Kickaha!"
Like an eye slowly closing in sleep, the opening in the wall contracted. The light dimmed, and the objects began to blur. But he could see well enough to get a final glimpse, and it was then that the girl stuck her head around the trunk of a tree.
She had unhumanly large eyes, as big in proportion to her face as those of a cat. Her lips were full and crimson, her skin golden-brown. The thick wavy hair hanging loose along the side of her face was tiger-striped: slightly zigzag bands of black almost touched the ground as she leaned around the tree.
Then the walls became white as the rolled-up eye of a corpse. All was as before except for the pain in his knees and the hardness of the horn lying against his ankle.
He picked it up and turned to look at it in the light from the recreation room. Although stunned, he no longer believed that he was insane. He had seen through into another universe and something from it had been delivered to him — why or how, he did not know.
The horn was a little less than two and a half feet long and weighed less than a quarter of a pound. It was shaped like an African buffalo's horn except at the mouth, where it flared out broadly. The tip was fitted with a mouthpiece of some soft golden material; the horn itself was of silver or silver-plated metal. There were no valves, but on turning it over he saw seven little buttons in a row. A half-inch inside the mouth was a web of silvery threads. When the horn was held at an angle to the light from the bulbs overhead, the web looked as if it went deep into the horn.
It was then the light also struck the body of the horn so that he saw what he had missed during his first examination: a hieroglyph was lightly inscribed halfway down the length. It looked like nothing he had seen before, and he was an expert on all types of alphabetic writing, ideographs, and pictographs.
"Robert!" his wife said.
"Be right up, dear!" He placed the horn in the right-hand front corner of the closet and closed the door. There was nothing else he could do except to run out of the house with the horn. If he appeared with it, he would be questioned by both his wife and Bresson. He had not come into the house with the horn, he could not claim it was his. Bresson would want to take the instrument into his custody, since it would have been discovered on property of his agency.
Wolff was in an agony of uncertainty. How could he get the horn out of the house? What was to prevent Bresson from bringing around other clients, perhaps today, who would see the horn as soon as they opened the closet door? A client might call it to Bresson's attention.
He walked up the steps and into the large living room. Brenda was still glaring. Bresson, a chubby, spectacled man of about thirty-five, looked uncomfortable, although he was smiling.
"Well, how do you like it?" he asked.
"Great." Wolff replied. "It reminds me of the type of house we have back home."
"I like it," Bresson said. "I'm from the Midwest myself. I can appreciate that you might not want to live in a ranchtype home. Not that I'm knocking them. I live in one myself."
Wolff walked to the window and looked out. The midafternoon May sun shone brightly from the blue Arizona skies. The lawn was covered with the fresh Bermuda grass, planted three weeks before, new as the houses in this just-built development of Hohokam Homes.
"Almost all houses are ground level," Bresson was saying. "Excavating in this hard caliche costs a great deal, but these houses aren't expensive. Not for what you get."
Wolff thought, If the caliche hadn't been dug away to make room for the recreation room, what would the man on the other side have seen when the opening appeared? Would he have seen only earth and thus been denied the chance to get rid of that horn? Undoubtedly.
"You may have read why we had to delay opening this development," Bresson said. "While we were digging, we uncovered a former town of the Hohokam."
"Hohokam?" Mrs. Wolff said. "Who were they?"
"Lots of people who come into Arizona have never heard of them," Bresson replied. "But you can't live long in the Phoenix area without running across references to them. They were the Indians who lived a long time ago in the Valley of the Sun; they may have come here at least 1200 years ago. They dug irrigation canals, built towns here, had a swinging civilization. But something happened to them, no one knows what. They just up and disappeared several hundred years ago. Some archeologists claim the Papago and Pima Indians are their descendants."
Mrs. Wolff sniffed and said, "I've seen them. They don't look like they could build anything except those rundown adobe shacks on the reservation."
Wolff turned and said, almost savagely, "The modern Maya don't look as if they could ever have built their temples or invented the concept of zero, either. But they did."
Brenda gasped. Mr. Bresson smiled even more mechanically. "Anyway, we had to suspend digging until the archeologists were through. Held up operations for months, but we couldn't do a thing because the state tied our hands.
"However, this may be a lucky thing for you. If we hadn't been held up, these homes might all be sold now. So everything turns out for the best, eh?"
He smiled brightly and looked from one to the other.
Wolff paused, took a deep breath, knowing what was coming from Brenda, and said, "We'll take it. We'll sign the papers right now."
"Robert!" Mrs. Wolff shrilled. "You didn't even ask me!"
"I'm sorry, my dear, but I've made up my mind."
"Well, I haven't!"
"Now, now, folks, no need to rush things," Bresson said. His smile was desperate. "Take your time, talk it over. Even if somebody should come along and buy this particular house — and it might happen before the day's over; they're selling like hot cakes — well, there's plenty more just like this."
"I want this house."
"Robert, are you out of your mind?" Brenda wailed. "I've never seen you act like this before."
"I've given in to you on almost everything," he said. "I wanted you to be happy. So, now, give in to me on this. It's not much to ask. Besides, you said this morning that you wanted this type of house, and Hohokam Homes are the only ones like this that we can afford.
"Let's sign the preliminary papers now. I can make out a check as an earnest."
"I won't sign, Robert."
"Why don't you two go home and discuss this?" Breson said. "I'll be available when you've reached a decision."
"Isn't my signature good enough?" Wolff replied.
Still holding his strained smile, Bresson said, "I'm sorry, Mrs. Wolff will have to sign, too."
Brenda smiled triumphantly.
"Promise me you won't show it to anybody else," Wolff said. "Not until tomorrow, anyway. If you're afraid of losing a sale, I'll make out an earnest."
"Oh, that won't be necessary." Bresson started toward the door with a haste that betrayed his wish to get out of an embarrassing situation. "I won't show it to anyone until I hear from you in the morning."
On the way back to their rooms in the Sands Motel in Tempe, neither spoke. Brenda sat rigidly and stared straight ahead through the windshield. Wolff glanced over at her now and then, noting that her nose seemed to be getting sharper and her lips thinner; if she continued, she would look exactly like a fat parrot.
Excerpted from "The World of Tiers Volume One"
Copyright © 1968 Philip José Farmer.
Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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