Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Long Earth

The Long Earth
By Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
Harper, 2012. 336 pages. Sci-Fi

In this non-Discworld novel, Terry Pratchett and co-author Stephen Baxter explore an interesting concept: what if humans had the ability to reach all the Earths that could have been? After the invention of a simple device powered by a potato, the people of the world discover that they have the ability to Step—to travel to neighboring Earths on the possibility tree. What if the Ice Age had never ended? What if humans had never evolved? What if, what if. Each one of these options suddenly becomes a place that humanity can visit. The further you get from home, or “Datum Earth” as it’s now called, the stranger things become. Two adventurers—a sentient computer program named Lobsang and a Davy Crockett-style celebrity Stepper named Joshua Valient√©—embark on a quest to Step as far as they can and discover the end of the Long Earth.

Fans of Terry Pratchett will definitely find his signature style within this book. Lobsang, a computer program who claims to be a Tibetan motorcycle repairman reborn, is pure Discworld. However, this work is far more contemplative than most of Pratchett’s humor writing. There are very few laugh-out-loud moments, and the book occasionally reads more like a pop science article than a novel. The emphasis is definitely on the concept more than the characters or plot. This leads to a slower pace, and I often found that I enjoyed thinking about the book more than I did actually reading it. Despite cosmic focus, however, I found Lobsang and Joshua both charming and their interactions amusing, and I was as eager as they were to discover the end of the Long Earth. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for an interesting soft sci-fi that might change the way you look at the world, or (of course) to fans of Terry Pratchett.


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