Review of THE LONG EARTH by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
Harper, June 2012
While some must travel slowly, sickly, a few are natural steppers. They don't even need the potato to make their way through the dimensions (while others can't travel at all). One of the naturals is Joshua--famous for helping bring back children who stepped through dimensions and lost their way. Now he's traveling with an artificial intelligence who thinks he's a reincarnated Tibetian not one or two dimensions from old Earth, but millions--looking for something although neither really seems to know what.
It's an intriguing concept. A lot of scientific theory is based on the idea that all paths are taken, that our universe is simply one leaf among an infinite number of others. In many (most) of these alternate universes, humans wouldn't have evolved. It's intriguing to consider how our world would react to a sudden opening of a new frontier--one where everyone could have their own world, if that's what they wanted, or where communities could go to create their own utopias. Would, as authors Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter posit, those left behind feel resentment over being abandoned (probably). Would they descend into right-wing gingoism and terrorism (quite possibly). Which, to me was the weakness of the story. I'd be fascinated by a look at people trying to carve out a new world (literally). I'd be fascinated by a story of those left behind trying to cope with a huge outflux of humanity, especially of healthy and young humanity as the ambitious left the elderly and infirm behind to fend for themselves. Pratchett and Baxter don't give us this story. Instead, they give us glimpses of a multi-million dimension journey that includes sapient beings who just might be the elves and trolls of human legend.
I'm a huge fan of <../sfpages/sf_rev_autm-p.html#tpratchett">Terry Pratchett (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of speculative fiction by Pratchett). To my mind, his works are simultaneously hysterically funny, exciting adventures and thoughtful commentary on the human condition. In my previous experience with Stephen Baxter (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of speculative fiction by Baxter), I found his concepts intriguing but that his execution didn't fully realize that vision. For me, THE LONG EARTH was exactly that: a great concept followed by not-so-great execution.
Two StarsReviewed 7/10/12
Too generous? Too stingy. Or did I miss the whole point? Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll publish the best letters I get so let me know if I can use your name.
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