The Long Earth – Review

Currently on Loan from the Library:

The Long Earth by: Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

The Six Wives of Henry VIII  by: Alison Weir

The War of the Roses by: Alison Weir

Genghis by: Conn Iggulden

NanJing Requiem by: Ha Jin

Other Books I’m Reading:

Anathem: by Neal Stephenson

The Long Earth by: Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter turns out to be one of those books that is long on set up and short on almost everything else.  It’s a great set up too.  A random scientist figures out how to make a box that will come to be known as a Stepper. He publishes the plans for the Stepper on the internet and naturally, a bunch of kids put one together.  The Stepper allows you to step from the earth you are on to one directly east, or directly west across the meta-verse.   How many other earths are there?  How many steps do you want to take?  How broad.  How expansive.   You could do almost anything with a set up like that.  But they don’t.

Instead the rest of the book is a bunch of ready made set pieces.  You know the one about how the possibly sentient super computer meets you in a surprising way, and wants your help?  Yup, that one is in there.  Or how about the one where you dip you toe in the water, and almost get eaten by a surprising creature?   Yup, that one is in there too.   So are, guys beating on each other until they are friends, finding  a fellow castaway,  discovering the city you didn’t know existed, and barely escaping death at the hands of a native life form.    They even threw in the rebellion against you computer scene.   Just for good measure.

As the computer and his human explore the other earths we find that most of the animals on them look like horses, elephants or pigs.  Also we find they are able to directly reference every major science fiction franchise of the last fifty years except Doctor Who.  The Doctor should not be put out by their failure to drop his name.  It’s actually an honor.  If we must reference everybody else, how good is our book really gentleman?

As someone mentioned in the comments on another post, the Percy Blakeney of this book is not anything like his namesake the Scarlett Pimpernel.  Also, he’s deeply under utilized.  Exploring how an Englishman is pulled out of World War Two France, and sheltered by a life for he thinks are Russians on a different earth for most of the rest of his life could have been interesting.  Sadly Percy appears at the beginning, reappears for no real reason about halfway through, and then is gone again.

After two hundred pages or so, a couple things do happen.  They resolve themselves in a sort of climax, which is in no way surprising, or heartbreaking, or full of the destructive potential the reader is lead to believe will be present.  Then when someone finally does blow something up, it’s trite, and seriously not at all tragic.

I could go into more.  But I won’t.  In the end I still love Terry.  But I’m going back to Discworld where interesting and surprising things actually happen sometimes.  As for Baxter, well I still see no reason to include him in my library.

Enjoyability: One star.  I’m sorry Terry.  Really, really sorry.

Where to read this book: Well, I guess anywhere, but only for medical reason.  Like insomnia.

Further reading: Right now I’m reading Genghis.  Which suites my slightly stabby mood.


Posted on April 15, 2013, in around the house, Fiction, review and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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