Book review: The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Steven Baxter

This one’s been on my reading list for a while, but ended up being pushed to the back. I wasn’t sure why, but now that I think about it, I reckon I’m just ‘prolonging the Pratchetts’: the great man is gone now, so at some point I’m not going to have any more of his work to read – and I’m really not looking forward to that. Anyway, it seems sort of stupid to deprive myself of some really good books just because I don’t want to run out, so here we are: The Long Earth.

This is the story of the human race following the discovery that homo sapiens can travel to other versions of planet Earth in an infinite stream of alternate dimensions. All that’s needed is a box of electronics (plans freely available on the internet) – and a potato, preferably a large one (I feel the Pratchett influence here). The premise is established early on, and from there we’re taken on a whistle-stop tour of the Long Earth: millions of alternate Earths that are, for the most part, empty – but not always.

The_Long_EarthThe Long Earth is the first book in a series, so I’d probably describe it as the preamble. To be honest, we learn an awful lot about how things work, and the effects that the discovery of the Long Earth has on history, and make no mistake this is thought-provoking stuff. There are now enough raw Earths for everyone to have one to themselves, so the real Earth pretty much empties out overnight. Gold loses its value because everyone can have their own goldmine on an Earth somewhere else. Blimey!

The idea is big and sprawling, so it’s no surprise that the first book is pretty much a preamble to set things up for the books that follow on. It lays everything out, but doesn’t really lead to any conclusions. Still, it’s gripping, witty, and has Mr Pratchett’s fingerprints all over it. The characters are strange and engaging (who doesn’t love eccentric nuns!) and though you quickly get the feeling that this perhaps might not lead anywhere, it’s still very readable. The action seems to amble along at several hundred earths per minute, but occasionally hits the brakes to show you something; that, to me, felt a little bit artificial, almost like a tour guide holding up her hand to point out an interesting monastery. 

Still, I enjoyed it immensely and I reckon I’m going to stick with the series.

Seven out of ten. 🙂