Book Review: The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett, Stephen Baxter

The Long Earth Book Review

The Silence was very faint here. Almost drowned out by the sounds of the mundane world. Did people in this polished building understand how noisy it was? The roar of air conditioners and computer fans, the susurration of many voices heard but not decipherable…. This was the office of the transEarth Institute, an arm of the Black Corporation. The faceless office, all plasterboard and chrome, was dominated by a huge logo, a chesspiece knight. This wasn’t Joshua’s world. None of it was his world. In fact, when you got right down to it, he didn’t have a world; he had all of them.

ALL OF THE LONG EARTH.

This is a Terry Pratchett, who is/was one of the few authors I generally buy their books in hardback. It’s been a while since he did a collaboration, but it was around the time that this series was announced it was also announced that Pratchett had early onset Alzheimer’s, which he subsequently died from. There are 5 books in the series, and this is the first, where the whole thing gets started.

It turns out that the Earth we live on isn’t the only version of this world….it seems that there are many other versions, at various stages of development, that can be reached by “stepping” either east or west. Some can do this naturally, some can do it with the use of a little stepping device that is powered by a potato, and some can’t step at all. There is a certain level of resentment in the latter group, especially  rest of their family leave for what they see as a better life and Leave them behind.

We are introduced to a number of main characters through whose eyes we see this new world.

  • Labsong who is a Tibetan consciousness associated with the Black corporation, and it is his money, tools etc that set up finding out more about the non datum earths.
  • Joshua is a natural “stepper” and Labsong gives Joshua the tools to get away from Datum Earth and investigate the other possibilities.
  • In the latter part of the book we are joined by Sally, a natural stepper, who is the daughter of the man who invented the stepping device. Rumour has it that daddy is dead, but there is some foreshadowing that he might turn up in a following book.

This is a relatively slow book, where Labsong, Sally and Joshua are generally left alone to do their own thing. Occasionally they get to investigate new creatures, some benign, some not, and this allows the authors to muse on what earth may have looked like had evolution taken a little detour from what happened on our version of earth.

Finally they come across a massive beast that seems to be the source of Joshua’s unease and Labsong sacrifices his ambulatory unit, if not his consciousness, to be absorbed by the alien in order to find out more.

The focus on the Long Earth for the story made it a bit disconcerting when very late in the book they introduce the idea of the long Mars. Either I was not paying attention in the rest of the book….always a possibility….or this was a very late entry of the idea of alternate other worlds. The fact there is a whole novel dedicated to the long Mars makes me wonder…..

I actually read this book in late 2016, but it’s taken me this long to write a review. It wasnt *bad*, it’s just been really difficult to know what to say about it. In reading other reviews, it seems I’m not the only one. Whilst overall people like/love the book, there are a number of things said that I tend to agree with:

  • It seems more of a number of short stories on a theme, rather than a comprehensive joined up narrative.
  • Whilst there are some amusing scenes that bring a wry smile on occasion, it’s missing the sharp wit of Pratchett that brings up dodgy looks on the bus when you laugh out loud.
  • Labsong and Sally are reasonably well defined and memorable, but Joshua (as the character the human outsider should be able to relate to the most) is the least memorable – it took me ages to remember what his name was!

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s