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

Long Earth HeaderI have a friend that has been singing the praises of Terry Pratchett for as long as I’ve known her, sharing little moments from the novels that make the stories he has to share sound like fantastical joyrides.  Yet somehow I have put off experiencing what this man has to offer until I saw the recommendation of his recent novel, The Long War, cowritten by Stephen Baxter.  But before I can get to that sequel, I had to start with The Long Earth.

The Long Earth is the name that has been applied to the world(s) as we know it following Step Day.  On this day, a diagram for a stepper was put online, and with this potato powered contraption people are given the ability to teleport to another version of Earth.  Sounds complicated, but the way I like to think of it is one of those slide projectors where all of the slides form a circle when looked at from above.  Now imagine that each slide is a version of our Earth, minus a native population of the human variety.  You can only move from one slide to the next, backwards or forwards (or East and West), also like these projectors.  But one flaw in this comparison is it’s not clear if it actually moves in a circle or not; if you will eventually come back home if you keep stepping in one direction.

See, simple.  Right?  If you find yourself still confused by this explanation, then don’t worry about having trouble with the reading because it will eventually became an acceptable way of thinking of this world, with the complexities lost.  Especially since it wont be me trying to explain something to you, but a seasoned writer.  Not only is it more understandable, but these worlds actually get even more interesting when our main characters start exploring the different versions, seeing how the same planet can change immensely over time given different circumstances.

When you think about it, not a lot actually happens in the now of the story as most of it just involves these two individuals on this giant ship above the Earths’ surfaces as they step from one version to the next, trying to get somewhere, but that isn’t to say that the story becomes boring.  I do wish that we had spent more time on the surface level of these planets, but when you think about it if many planets are the same then there won’t be much to see.  So instead, Lobsang and Joshua spend their time talking and hypothesizing about this world, as well as sharing stories from the past of possible natural steppers and the formation of different myths and legends that can be edited now that this new spectrum of knowledge and possibilities can be considered.

The characters aren’t really anything special, which is definitely a major check in the negatives column, but this world is too fascinating to get bored with.  Yet, even with that said, I feel that I am actually more excited for the potential of what can happen in the sequels to follow than by what I’ve read so far.  So though I wasn’t blown away by The Long Earth on it’s own, the series has the potential to be pretty great on the whole.

Final Grade:  3/3.5 out of 5     

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