Terry Pratchett, co-author of The Long Earth. Photocredit: Jutta @flickr
The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter is the first in a series, centering around a collection of alternate earths that occupy the same spacetime as our world, but are in a different quantum dimension. It sees Joshua Valienté, and his artificially intelligent companion Lobsang, exploring each earth, stepping from one to another (via a potato powered device) as Something Wicked sweeps in from the outer reaches. The book’s fired up the blogosphere, with fans of both authors enjoying the collaboration.
“As literary alchemy goes it’s a tantalising prospect, especially when the two titans involved are Terry Pratchett – knight of the realm, creator of the Discworld, bacon butty enthusiast – and Stephen Baxter, a man in possession of a mind so sharp he’s in danger of piercing the very fabric of reality itself,” said Rob Power on SFX.
A marriage made in fan heaven
This, said Adam Roberts in The Guardian, is “a marriage made in fan heaven,” allying Pratchett’s “warmth and humanity” to Baxter’s “fertile science-fiction imagination.” The idea of an alternative earth is “a hoary old standard,” of course, but there’s a “new spin here” – there’s no humans on the other earths. If you’re bored on this one, you can simply step out of existence and start again on another. It’s more Baxterian than Prachettian, and in fact is a species of “utopian writing.” It’s very “refreshing.” It’s “charming, absorbing and somehow spacious.”
A solid science fiction novel that may bring new fans to Pratchett
Thingsmeanalot said it wasn’t Pratchett at his best, but it was “a solid science fiction novel.” It might also introduce Pratchett to other readers, with its “combination of humor and darkness, the political aspects, the big questions about what it means to be human, the fascination with science and history.” And the best thing about it is that “it responds to the improbability of our existence with genuine appreciation for the fact that we’re here at all rather than with angst.”
Not perfect, but worth a read
1330v said that the pair of authors “do an excellent job with world building.” Each Earth is different – some are going through Ice Ages, others are “hot and balmy.” There are creatures called “trolls, whose singing is so beautiful you will stop everything to hear them, and elves who kill for sport.” Those who leave Earth cause problems on it; those left behind are heartbroken by those who leave. There is a lot going on, and the pacing is slow, and whilst it’s “not a perfect read,” it’s definitely to be recommended.
Genuinely thoughtful exploration of a changed universe
It’s a good time for alternative worlds, said Tor. Neal Stephenson’s Anathem; Iain M Banks’ Transition; Matt Fraction’s Casanova; and even Doctor Who. But the authors carry of their theme “gracefully.” The writing is “elegant and witty, peppered with sly pop-culture references.” Minor flaws it may have, but it’s a “genuinely thoughtful and entertaining exploration of a profoundly changed universe.”