Friday, August 17, 2018

'The Long Earth' by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

17 August 2018

I am a relatively recent convert to the books of Terry Pratchett and have enjoyed starting to plough through his catalogue of gloriously silly Discworld novels. ‘The Long Earth’ is a very different Terry Pratchett book. Written with Stephen Baxter, this is more serious science fiction rather than fantasy. The premise is that there are millions of parallel Earths, each of which has evolved in slightly different ways, and suddenly mankind discovers the ability to ‘step’ between these alternative worlds at will. It’s a great thought experiment, showing different ways in which the history of our planet might have developed as a result of countless ‘sliding doors’ moments. The alternative evolutionary paths for humans reminded me of HG Wells’ ‘The Time Machine’  – not surprising perhaps as Stephen Baxter is clearly a student of Wells, having previously written the meticulously crafted homage/sequel to ‘The War of the Worlds’, 'The Massacre of Mankind' (reviewed here in February 2017). The thought experiment also explores how mankind would make use of this sudden availability of endless alternative Earths, reminding me of other science fiction about pioneers settling new worlds – such as ‘The Martian Chronicles’ by Ray Bradbury and Harry Harrison’s ‘To The Stars’ trilogy. ‘The Long Earth’ is an enthralling concept but I felt the novel needed a stronger driving narrative. It is, however, the first in a 5-book series by Pratchett and Baxter so maybe this was the necessary set-up for what follows. I look forward to finding out.



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