Review: “The Long Earth” by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter


Title: “The Long Earth”

Author: Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter

Genre: Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Publication Date: June 9, 2012

Summary: 1916: the Western Front, France. Private Percy Blakeney wakes up. He is lying on fresh spring grass. He can hear birdsong, and the wind in the leaves in the trees. Where has the mud, blood and blasted landscape of No man’s Land gone?

2015: Madison, Wisconsin. Cop Monica Jansson has returned to the burned-out home of one Willis Linsay, a reclusive and some said mad, others dangerous, scientist. It was arson but, as is often the way, the firemen seem to have caused more damage than the fire itself. Stepping through the wreck of a house, there’s no sign of any human remains but on the mantelpiece Monica finds a curious gadget – a box, containing some wiring, a three-way switch and a…potato. It is the prototype of an invention that Linsay called a ‘stepper’. An invention he put up on the web for all the world to see, and use, an invention that would to change the way mankind viewed his world Earth for ever. And that’s an understatement if ever there was one…

…because the stepper allowed the person using it to step sideways into another America, another Earth, and if you kept on stepping, you kept on entering even more Earths…this is the Long Earth. It’s our our Earth but one of chain of parallel worlds, lying side by side each differing from its neighbour by really very little (or actually quite a lot). It’s an infinite chain, offering ‘steppers’ an infinite landscape of infinite possibilities. And the further away you travel, the stranger – and sometimes more dangerous – the Earths get. The sun and moon always shine, the basic laws of physics are the same. However, the chance events which have shaped our particular Earth, such as the dinosaur-killer asteroid impact, might not have happened and things may well have turned out rather differently.

But, until Willis Linsay invented his stepper, only our Earth hosted mankind…or so we thought. Because it turns out there are some people who are natural ‘steppers’, who don’t need his invention and now the great migration has begun..

☆: 3.5/5 stars – a fun, solid multiverse tale!

Review: This one was fun. If you’ve been reading the blog for awhile, you know my love of the multiverse/M-Theory in quantum physics, and “The Long Earth” really takes that theory, makes it accessible, and makes a very believable and human story with a fantastic setting of a seemingly endless string of parallel Earths and universes. If you’re interested in the multiverse/M-Theory or better want to understand it through speculative adult fiction, “The Long Earth” is definitely one book you want to read.

What I liked best about “Long Earth” was the multiple points of view and the multiple narrators, and how they were all related to each other. After “Step Day” (the first “step”, or travel, into an Earth/universe other than “Datum Earth”, or the Earth as we know it in our reality right now), there’s a whole bunch of issues that now face both people and their governments. There’s the opportunity for everyone to start over, and create the utopia for their dreams – so tons of people are leaving to try to redo human society all over again. Everyone involved in an important way in Step Day becomes a narrator, so we get their story, and more details/backstory that’s not included in the general narrative about Step Day and everything that’s happened since then, which was really great. Pratchett and Baxter do a fantastic job there, and the POV transitions flowed very naturally, and nowhere did it feel stilted or unnatural.

What didn’t feel so complete were some of the more important details of the Long Earth (the multiple Earths/universes as a whole) itself. We’re only given a few details – as in, with every big choice humans have made, yet another Earth has become created. In the blurb, we’re told that the Dinosaur Extinction Event may or may not have happened on some of these Earths, but in the book, it’s not really talked about all of that much. I didn’t need too much more information, but more than I got in the book, and that jolted me about out of the world that Pratchett and Baxter created in this book. So the worldbuilding wasn’t airtight, but the journey with main narrators Lobsang and Joshua kind of makes up for it. Kind of.

The ending was also a little more ambiguous than I would have liked, but it was enough. I kind of wanted a more solid ending, but I respect the ending I was given. The journey sub-arc did run a little long and I did feel my attention wavering, so it was good to get to the ending.

So all in all? I liked it, and I think it’s definitely worth the read. I think, though, that one more draft could have been used to tighten up the worldbuilding and straighten out the ending a bit more. However, the mythology created within the book from actual science was wonderful, as was the speculation as to how many parallel Earths/universes there might be out there. If you’re looking for a somewhat complex but really fun summer read, pick up “The Long Earth”. It’s out June 19, 2012 from Harper in North America, so be sure to go and check it out then!

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3 thoughts on “Review: “The Long Earth” by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

  1. Pingback: usagi’s challenges for 2012! « birth of a new witch.

  2. Pingback: Stacking the Shelves: Week 06 « birth of a new witch.

  3. Pingback: Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter, The Long Earth (2012) « Follow the Thread

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