Recent Reads: The Long Earth

I’ve read the four available books in Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter’s Long Earth series in the past couple weeks, going so far as to break my “no e-books over €9.99” rule, which appears to have held right up until the point that I wanted something that cost more than that. :)

I’ve found them pretty satisfying, obviously, or I wouldn’t have read four of them in…mostly a week. They’re about the discovery, or rather, the consequences of the discovery, of parallel earths (referred to collectively as The Long Earth) that can be “stepped” to, mostly by use of a homemade device powered by a potato. Build a device, flick a switch on it, and you can step either ‘East’ or ‘West’, to infinity and beyond; humans have only developed on Datum Earth, so it’s all unspoiled territory, although it gets stranger the farther away from Datum you go.

Book One, THE LONG EARTH, is the most satisfying of them, and not just for the observation that Jim Steinman’s For Crying Out Loud is probably one of the most holy songs every recorded. :) The next three, including THE LONG WAR, but particularly THE LONG MARS, and THE LONG UTOPIA, don’t…really follow through on the promise of their titles, or at least not in any way that resounded with me. Many, many threads have been cast; each sequel is essentially a thread of its own, plus all the carrying-through subplots, but there’s no real sense of them all drawing back together in a satisfactory manner.

They may yet, of course; Pratchett & Baxter had contracted for 5 books and, given that the books are (according to a reviewer, but also fairly clearly to anybody who’s read Pratchett) more in Baxter’s style than Pratchett’s, I assume that Baxter will be completing at least the contracted books without Pratchett, with whom he had presumably mapped out the upcoming territory.

Anyway, I feel like there’s vast potential that’s not quite being approached correctly in the books, but I’ve basically enjoyed them and I’ll certainly read the next one when it’s out. And the fact that I’ve enjoyed them bodes well for the Baxter book I got at EasterCon and haven’t yet read (although I may do so promptly, now).

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