Book: The Long Earth – Author: Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter
Genre: Fiction, Sci-Fi
Description from Goodreads:
From the back jacket:
NORMALLY, WHEN THERE WAS NOTHING TO DO, HE LISTENED TO THE SILENCE.
The Silence was very faint here. Almost drowned out by the sounds of the mundane world. Did people in this polished building understand how noisy it was? The roar of air conditioners and computer fans, the susurration of many voices heard but not decipherable…. This was the office of the transEarth Institute, an arm of the Black Corporation. The faceless office, all plasterboard and chrome, was dominated by a huge logo, a chesspiece knight. This wasn’t Joshua’s world. None of it was his world. In fact, when you got right down to it, he didn’t have a world; he had all of them.
ALL OF THE LONG EARTH.
From the inside jacket:
The possibilities are endless. Just be careful what you wish for….
1916: The Western Front. Private Percy Blakeney wakes up. He is lying on fresh spring grass. He can hear birdsong, and the wind in the leaves. Where has the mud, blood and blasted landscape of no-man’s-land gone? For that matter, where has Percy gone?
2015: Madison, Wisconsin. Police officer Monica Jansson is exploring the burned-out home of a reclusive–some said mad, others allege dangerous–scientist who seems to have vanished. Sifting through the wreckage, Jansson finds a curious gadget: a box containing some rudimentary wiring, a three-way switch, and…a potato. It is the prototype of an invention that will change the way humankind views the world forever.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this one. I’ve never read anything by Stephen Baxter and have only liked a couple of the books I’ve read so far by Terry Pratchett. The description intrigued me, however, so I decided to give it a go.
I’ll start by saying, I really like the main character, Joshua. He’s a bit of an oddball, but he seems so normal in comparison to the type of characters you usually get who are tasked with “saving the world”. No real brooding or whining about how his life has turned out, Joshua is more of a live-in-the-moment kind of person. But he’s also not the type to throw that in your face or act recklessly. Joshua is subdued, almost to the point of stoicism, but without being all holier-than-thou about it. And I really connected with his desire to be alone, while still needed to connect to people. It’s one of those “I like being alone, but I don’t fancy being lonely” type things that quite a lot of us introverts have to deal with.
I also really like the character of Lobsang. A sentient digital being, he’s always insisting that he’s human, but you can tell he’s still trying to figure out exactly what “being human” means. He’s almost like Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, though a bit more condescending and a lot more physically versatile. 😉 I loved that Lobsang and Joshua seem to hit it off rather than being at odds with each other all the time. The differences between the two are definitely acknowledged, but the writers don’t resort to the usual unnecessary tension that comes with having two such unique characters.
One of the things I ended up enjoying the most about the book, though, is actually something I think might put a lot of people off — the pacing. This book is SLOW. It makes sense in context; exploring hundreds of thousands of alternate Earths would take quite some time. And since this book is the lead in to a full series, the authors have the space to take as long as they want. The book also meanders a bit, throwing in seemingly random chapters that introduce new characters and explain how stepping has changed their lives. But none of the information we are given is completely useless; everything has a purpose.
I like books that allow themselves to tell the story at their own pace. Some jump into the action right off the bat, and those stories can be great too. But there is no need to rush anything in a series like this. Explain to us how stepping started. Describe as many of the “new” Earths as you can. Talk to us about how evolution might have gone differently to create these “new” creatures. Sci-fi lovers revel in the details. And as much as I like super-exciting, in-your-face stories sometimes, it’s the novels that take their time to introduce me to their new worlds fully and completely that really stick with me.
Overall, I’d definitely recommend this book to…well, everyone. But mainly people who love sci-fi, books with incredible world-building, or anyone with the exploring bug.
And don’t worry, action lovers, things really start to pick up towards the end…
In feel if not in content…
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet – Becky Chambers