The Long Earth
By Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
The Long Earth reminded me somewhat of The Martian Chronicles. It is first and foremost the story of human colonization of other worlds. And to some extent like Ray Bradbury, the authors, Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter, chose to write the story as a collection of short stories that bounce from one character to another. I liked this. I wished the authors would have continued doing this throughout the book. But eventually they moved away from the “many characters” approach and focused on just a few characters, Joshua, Lobsang, and eventually Sally.
A Little Disclaimer
Joshua is a natural stepper between alternate worlds. He reluctantly agrees to set out with Lobsang, a kind of artificial intelligence, to travel across the landscape of millions of alternate Earths. It is an epic journey, a super road trip to infinity. For awhile I had trouble putting the book down. I kept wanting to read just one more chapter. I began to think that maybe I had discovered another one of the few books I call “my classics”. But then the story started to drag. The discoveries that Joshua and Lobsang made started to feel mundane. It seemed to me that the excitement was wearing off just like it does on a real road trip.
At this point the authors chose to introduce Sally. Sally is a tough, snarky character who has been stepping around the Long Earth for some time. Her idealism clashes to some extent with Joshua but nire so with Lobsang. Still the trio manages to reach an understanding to explore further into the Long Earth and find the mysterious disturbance that is upsetting some of the intelligent life they find. This tension between the characters helps to breathe new life into the road trip to infinity.
But you can only stare out the window at the multitude of alternate Earths for so long before you yawn. Its like Fred Flintstone riding in his car while the same scenery passes behind him over and over. To some extent it is realistic, because once the excitement of a road trip dies down, the monotony sets in. But I was kind of hoping that the authors would find some way to offset this. When they didn’t, it became apparent to me that this is definitely a series book. In other words, put up with slow pace of the story now, because it will all make sense by the third book.
But please don’t misunderstand. I liked The Long Earth. I liked it alot. I could enjoy reading it again. But what I really want to do is read the next book in the series. I want to know what happens to the characters. And there are plenty of storylines that were not wrapped up in the first book, so I am curious to find out what the authors will do. Finally the world of The Long Earth, the millions of unexplored alternate Earths, is just too compelling for me. So if you are looking for a stand-alone book, this is not it. But if you want to jump into a new series, then The Long Earth is a good start. For this reason I give The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter four stars.