The Long Earth – Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter

About the book

1916: the Western Front, France. 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 has the mud, blood and blasted landscape of No man’s Land gone?

2015: Madison, Wisconsin. Cop Monica Jansson has returned to the burned-out home of one Willis Linsay, a reclusive and some said mad, others dangerous, scientist. It was arson but, as is often the way, the firemen seem to have caused more damage than the fire itself. Stepping through the wreck of a house, there’s no sign of any human remains but on the mantelpiece Monica finds a curious gadget – a box, containing some wiring, a three-way switch and a…potato. It is the prototype of an invention that Linsay called a ‘stepper’. An invention he put up on the web for all the world to see, and use, an invention that would to change the way mankind viewed his world Earth for ever. And that’s an understatement if ever there was one…

…because the stepper allowed the person using it to step sideways into another America, another Earth, and if you kept on stepping, you kept on entering even more Earths…this is the Long Earth. It’s not our Earth but one of chain of parallel worlds, lying side by side each differing from its neighbour by really very little (or actually quite a lot). It’s an infinite chain, offering ‘steppers’ an infinite landscape of infinite possibilities. And the further away you travel, the stranger – and sometimes more dangerous – the Earths get. The sun and moon always shine, the basic laws of physics are the same. However, the chance events which have shaped our particular Earth, such as the dinosaur-killer asteroid impact, might not have happened and things may well have turned out rather differently.

But, until Willis Linsay invented his stepper, only our Earth hosted mankind…or so we thought. Because it turns out there are some people who are natural ‘steppers’, who don’t need his invention and now the great migration has begun..

336 pages (Hardcover)
Published on June 19, 2012
Published by HarperCollins
Terry Pratchett’s Webpage
Stephen Baxter’s Webpage

You can purchase this book by clicking on the following link: The Long Earth


The Long Earth caught my eye early on. I’m always really interested when authors do things a bit differently. This is so different from anything I’ve read by Terry Pratchett before, I had to give it a shot. I saw a copy of this at the library and nabbed it. I also devoured this book, which is odd considering how many conflicting opinions I have regarding it.

Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter teamed up to write this. Many Pratchett fans might lament the fact that his signature humor isn’t always evident, nor does it overpower the book. There are Pratchett-esque moments, the sentient, reincarnated but machinoid Tibetan being one of them, however for the most part his humor remains subtle and sprinkled throughout the book without ever overpowering it. In fact, unless you are looking for signs of Terry Pratchett and his Discworld humor, you could easily miss it.

Now, fans of Pratchett might get pissed off about this. He’s a funny guy, and he somehow manages to mix his humor with some deeper thought. That humor so obviously lacking in The Long Earth could easily upset his fans. However, take a moment to consider this: The Long Earth is a more thought provoking book that explores the possibilities of our planet without any real limitations. I don’t think a book full of Pratchett’s Discworld tone and humor would have allowed The Long Earth to work as well as it did.

One of the major accomplishments of The Long Earth is how thought provoking it is, and throughout all the possibilities that the autors explore, they never seem to lose that sense of wonder that will pull readers through to the end. The Long Earth truly explores endless “what ifs,” not only with parallel realities, but societal and political changes. This has the inevitable potential to spark some very interesting and lively discussions with anyone willing to explore these ideas and theories with you. No matter how much you enjoy this book, the ability to spark lively thought and discussion with others is a huge mark of success.

Despite how entertaining and thought provoking this book was, it had some issues that held it back from being anything more than fun for me. Joshua, while being a main character, never really moves past being an interesting mystery. He never really becomes believable in my eyes. Nor does his Tibetan friend. Sally, a necessary addition to their journey for her humor and different personality, took way too long to enter the story and revive it.

Secondly, The Long Earth feels like a setup for the rest of the series. Much of the book is spent exploring and learning about exactly what The Long Earth and its implications are. Not much really happens until the last two or three chapters. This is an obvious hook to drag readers onto book two when it is released, but it also feels cheap. I appreciate the complexity of the ideas and the world(s) that the authors are dealing with, but having one book dedicated to setting it all up felt a little unnecessary and rather exhausting.

Thirdly, there were some issues with the flow of the narrative. Namely, the authors jumped quite often from the main story to side stories and plots that were spontaneously and sporadically retouched on throughout the book. Instead of cleanly weaving these into the central plot, these chapters had a distinct jarring feeling that took away from the smooth flow of the book overall. They were obvious (yet interesting) hiccups, and I can’t help but wonder if they could have been handled better so they had a less jarring effect on the reader.

The Long Earth is a lot of fun, and it has a great thought provoking quality that I look for in a lot of books, but seldom find. However, oddly enough, I didn’t think that the thought provoking quality or entertainment was enough to carry readers over some of the obvious issues with flow, characterization, and the “setting up” feel that people will inevitably face. The Long Earth is interesting and there is very real potential in this series (which I completely plan on revisiting), but it’s not the quality of work I would expect from these two literary giants.


3/5 stars


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