Review – The Long Earth – Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

The Long Earth

Hello Internet. Welcome back for Review #18. And this time, I welcome back another science-fiction series, because my masochism knows very few bounds. And while you feast on another interesting teaser, I work in the background kicking the machine which writes these for me.

There is something very wrong with the opening of this book. It’s not a style issue, as such, it’s more a technical issue. I can understand that in the first couple of sentences you need to not only grab the reader’s attention, but more or less stun them into submission so they can actually sit down for more than a minute and keep reading. However, should you choose to do this by rapidly switching the perspective of the character you just happen to be following now on a complete and total whim, this will give your reader a massive sense of what can only be described as whiplash. The Long Earth does this, and in a science fiction as heady as this one, when you should really be settling in and figuring out the important technical details like what the fuck is up with that guy who just disappeared and what does a potato have to do with anything?

And so, The Long Earth (another capitalised “T”, I suspect) has an intro which can be compared to a Supreme pizza. A lot of everything and too chaotic to actually pin down one thing. And since this is not (really) a comedy, the attempts to wow you are just like someone setting off fireworks inside your house. They look pretty, and they send sparks everywhere, but the clean-up is gonna be horrendous. And it was. It wasn’t until the third or fourth chapter in where you actually get a pinned-down main character, and the storyline comes in a lot later after that. But it is damn interesting. You can’t argue with the fact that the entire premise of stepping is actually very interesting indeed.

Now, don’t get me wrong, The Long Earth tries really hard to get your attention, succeeds waaaay too well, and if you aren’t careful and don’t try to get a grasp on the plot quite quickly, you will lose it. But after the first few rollercoaster chapters, the book slows down to a nice, reasonable pace, and you begin to like it. What with Lobsang the monk/artificial intelligence/drinks machine/what have you exploring the multiverse with a natural stepper who doesn’t need a potato (see, Hiccup, you don’t need the potato to save your friends), the story is very likeable. And thanks to the two wonderful authors (big fan of that pairing, oh hells yes) the style reads like Douglas Adams writing something that wasn’t comedy. Wait, hang on, Douglas Adams not being funny for once? The world’s gone mad!

I suppose this leaves me just enough room to explain the other problem with this book, one slightly more subtle. It goes on for too long! With a science fiction like this one, stepping is a complex enough idea to last a whole book. You don’t need [soft spots], or the [large planet which is a single entity] to involve itself. Just give us little bits at a time! Maybe then you could’ve worked on that start more!

The Long Earth was published in 2012 by Doubleday. It can be found on Amazon here.

Yours: J.M. Pear

Review – The Long Earth – Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter