Sunday, September 6, 2015

THE LONG EARTH – TERRY PRATCHETT & STEPHEN BAXTER

Ah, Sir Terry (he died in March), we fans do miss him and will continue to. It breaks my heart to think his brilliant mind is silent forever. But I haven't read all of his books yet and there is a plethora of them. About half of the professional reviews say this book isn't good. Well, I am not a professional and I liked it. This is the first in a collaborative series by two great British fantasy authors. It promised to fill my heart with joy and boggle my mind with ideas about parallel worlds, parallel earths to be exact. This first one certainly did that. It does have a lot of characters to keep track of and the plot is a bit convoluted so if you want to read it make sure you have the time and inclination to concentrate.

The phrase “the long earth” refers to the fact that there are millions of parallel earths that are in the same space time and are similar to “Datum Earth” which is what people call the one we live on, and which is the only one that has naturally evolved homo sapiens. The other earths can be visited by using a device called a “stepper” which is a small box powered by a potato. The closer worlds, or those that can be visited with few steps, are similar but as one steps further away the worlds get more and more different as each one evolved in time differently containing different flora and fauna.

Joshua Valienté is the main protagonist. He is a natural stepper who does not need a box to step and was actually born on another earth when his pregnant mother, another natural stepper, stepped away from danger and gave birth on another earth. Joshua journeys to the farthest earths with Lobsang, who claims to have been a Tibetan now reincarnated as an artificial intelligence with the ability to step and to generate matter. The two join up to step as far as they can to study the other worlds. On their travels they have fantastic encounters with trolls, elves, dinosaur descendants, and other human settlers. It becomes clear that Datum Earth is in great danger of an uncertain but devastating cataclysm. Millions of earths away a force, called First Person Singular is absorbing sentient life forms and taking over everything on an earth before stepping to consume another. It is moving towards Datum.

Back on Datum Earth there are also signs of disaster. There is a shortage of land, there is unrest, new and radicalized colonies are forming, and strange political movements are spreading. People are wanting to step away from Datum Earth but not all people are able to step nor do some want to resulting in families being fractured during a strange migration.

Also on Datum a group of anti-steppers called Humanity First plans to disrupt stepping by detonating an atomic bomb in Wisconsin. When Joshua and Lobsang learn of the plot they return to try to stop the bomb. Chaos ensues. Joshua blames Lobsang. What will humanity do without Datum and with their numbers scattered throughout the stepped earths?

Fantasy, science fiction, apocalyptic... all of those. Yes, in the middle I got a little bored with some of the travel description but so what? It was fun for me and will be for you too!

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