The Long Earth – Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter
22/07/2013 § 1 Comment
It seems I have become a Terry Pratchett convert: after avoiding him for years I’m now so drawn to his books that I buy them spur of the moment in Sainsbury’s when I’m bored (just like you shouldn’t go food shopping when you’re hungry, you shouldn’t browse books when you’re bored.)
I’ve never read anything by Stephen Baxter before – I’m not even convinced I’ve heard of him before – but, from what I can tell, his science fiction is more ‘serious’ than Pratchett’s Disc World series. This mix of the ‘serious’ and the mental makes The Long Earth an interesting book: the concept is brilliant and the tone is less jokey than I’m used to from Pratchett but the craziness still comes through (un-nunlike nuns, singing humanoids, a computer claiming he’s a reincarnated Tibetan motorcycling repairman).
Unfortunately, the brilliant concept (there are alternate Earths just a “step” away and people have learnt to step across universes and explore along the many Earths. There is, quite literally, a long way to go with that concept) flags a bit by the end. The central action is the exploration of the Long Earth by Joshua – a young man with the ability to “step” unaided – and the aforementioned Tibetan-man-who-is-now-a-computer. They are aiming to go as far along the Earths as they can, however there isn’t really a solid reason for this exploration other than just to see what’s out there. Curiosity can’t quite sustain the suspense in a novel.
The Long Earth is a good book however the balance between Pratchett and Baxter is too heavily in Baxter’s favour: I would have preferred Pratchett-heavy prose. I’ve read that there is to be a sequel and a threequel which hopefully will fix the poor ending to this novel. Also, either a bit more intrigue or a bit more wit is sorely needed to give the definitely-brilliant concept the book it deserves.