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Book Review: The Long Earth – Pratchett and Baxter

Another day, another non YA achievement!

The Long Earth is the first in a series of science fiction collaborations between SF giants Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter.

longearth.jpg1917: The Western Front. 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 have the mud, blood and blasted landscapes of No Man’s Land gone? 

2015: Madison Wisconcin. Cop Monica Jansson is exploring the burned out home of a reclusive – some say mad, others dangerous – scientist when she finds a curious gadget: a box containing some wiring, a three-way switch and a… potato. It is the prototype of an invention that will change the way Mankind views it’s world forever.

And that’s an understatement if there ever is one…

The blurb sounded so interesting; two parallel stories, 100 years apart but each essentially the same. Except this book is not about Private Percy Blakeney (pronounced black-en-knee), neither is it really about Officer Monica Jansson, although she has considerably more page time. The protagonists of this story are Joshua, a man, and an artificial intelligence named Lobsang, who may or may not have been human at some point. Following the events of ‘Step Day’, where the whole world learned the secret of ‘Stepping’ and wandered off into various, unlimited, parallel Earths, Joshua and Lobsang set out on a mission of exploration to see how far these Earths expand. This is also interesting and I will never understand why publishers feel the need to mislead audiences with their blurbs.

I’ve never read a Stephen Baxter book, but being a massive Terry Pratchett fan, I had high hopes for this novel, sadly these hopes were not met. While the actual story is a very interesting idea and the realities of a world where these things are possible are described pretty perfectly; surge in bank robberies, economies dying, countries going bankrupt ect, I felt that rest of the book was almost flat. The main story is interwoven with small tales of pioneers, bravely facing this new, unknown frontier, which read like a lovely history lesson, but get old fast. There was no character development, there was no discernible plot until about halfway through, and even then it didn’t really feel like it was going anywhere, just two people on a ship heading off into the unknown. Who knows what they will find! Answer: not a lot.

A nice idea, written in an extremely smart and engaging way, interspersed with some lovely Pratchett-esq humour, that just fell a bit short of the hurdle. The whole book feels like it’s only purpose it to gear up for the rest of the series and it takes a good 200 pages to get there. The whole thing left me feeling a little disappointed to be honest.

2/5  **

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