Earth is a great place, but there are just too damned many people cluttering up the joint. But not to worry, because a standard issue mad scientist has a solution-he found a way to Step into one of the infinity of parallel universes we are surrounded by.
The Long Earth is a post apocalypse book without that whole bothersome apocalypse thing. All writers are solitary beings, it comes with the territory. So just about every writer has fallen in love with the idea of a world devoid of all those annoying people who distract them from getting their work done. Most of them have reached the empty earth by killing off all the people who live there. But Terry Pratchett is a nicer kind of writer, so he takes the equation and turned it over, he gives everyone an empty universe to move into.
Our hero is a natural Stepper named Joshua who is famous across the multiverse for being a nice guy and helping people get through the first Step Day. He likes it out in the Long Earth, where he can have a whole world all to himself and live the life he chooses to live. He gains the attention of a supercomputer named Lobsang, who claims to be a reincarnated auto mechanic. Lobsang quickly takes over the story and Joshua’s role becomes one of tag along. About two thirds through they pick a woman Stepper who joins them for the rest of their adventures.
The story flows easily enough and there is always something going on. Blended in with the constant earth hopping is a collection of small stories about the history of Stepping, the animals they find, and all kinds of odds and ends related to the Long Earth.
I’m not familiar with Stephen Baxter, but I’m going to guess that he did most of the grunt work on the Long Earth. The writing is good and soild-clean and simple. The Long Earth goes off on countless tangents about one thing or another, but never feels overly pedagogic. They resist the urge to use words like pedagogic, for example.
The closing pages are emotionally charged and our authors couldn’t resist playing the Let’s Kill Everyone Card that is the hallmark of all post apocalyptic novels. But again, our authors are nice guys and don’t really want to kill anyone.
I was a bit disappointed by the end of The Long Earth. Countless questions are asked, and none of them are answered. Should I be surprised that the man who has written 39 Discworld novels would leave this book open for more books to follow? No, but it is possible to pick up any of the Discworld books find a self contained story set within the large universe.
There is nothing in the Long Earth but the setup for future adventures. It’s like watching a pilot for a TV Show. And for me, the bad part if that I really hate the robot/auto mechanic Lobsang. I don’t want JarJar Binks to be the star of the show. Lobsang was clearly meant to be humorous at times, but he was nothing but condescending and self satisfied.
I enjoyed the Long Earth right up until the nothing resolved ending. I like the idea of Sliders without people and the Great Mystery was a bit of a surprise when it showed up. I was actually expecting rampaging hordes of Cro-Magnon.
Don’t expect Discworld and maybe wait for another couple of titles to be cranked out before you read The Long Earth.