Review: the long earth by terry pratchett and stephen baxter

Perpetual Man

Tim James
Jun 13, 2006
Terry Pratchett is so well known for his Discworld novels that it is hard to know how to react when he steps out from under their shadow and tries something totally different. This is very much the case where he teams up with noted science fiction writer Stephen Baxter to write the Long Earth.

The story is potentially huge in scope, playing on the alternate reality theory. If humanity could pass between different versions of Earth, ‘step’ as it is called here, what would they find? It might be a familiar concept (especially to comic readers), but Baxter and Pratchett take the idea into some interesting directions - what if humanity only developed on one Earth (ours) and despite the countless others they never evolved (as seen so far)?

What if other things did?

The book is an engaging read, and one that I could not help but enjoy. Although there is a fair amount of humour, it is not the same as Pratchett’s norm, and neither should it be. It is nice to see him stretch himself a bit and do something that is so much different to normal. The same could be said of Baxter. Although it is a long time since I last read any of his work, I seem to recall that he was a much more ‘hard’ SF writer (having written with Arthur C. Clarke), and here the science is a lot less hard. I saw an interview with Pratchett where he stated he was all for having it absolutely serious, but Baxter kept sneaking in the jokes. And if this is the case it somehow seems to make it all the more fitting.

If I was to level one faulty with the book, it is a bit light, there could have been more detail and more description, spending a little more time on some of the various Earth's rather than skipping through them. But then it would have been a slower book to read.

And that is what I think is at the heart of this new series. It is a book of big ideas, that sets it’s stall out quickly then shows you just what it has got. It is written by two masters of the craft, so can put little wrong on the actual writing, and delivers a story of scale, filled with interesting characters, and a plethora of ideas that just keep on coming.

Most importantly perhaps, it shows to men stepping outside of their regular ourve, forming a new combined entity and having an awful lot of fun with it.

And I think, for me, that sums up this book. Yes, it is not Discworld, nor is it hard science fiction. It is two men writing together and delivering fun, and so few books do that these days. No matter how good they are, how gripping I rarely look back and feel that I had good old innocent fun.

And with this book I did.

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Nice review, thanks PM. I think I'd probably like these. Are they a series, and if so, do you know anything about future books. Also, I've heard that the quality of Pratchett's output is going downhill (for obvious and very sad reasons). Presumably that's not apparent, as Baxter can tidy up?
They are a series, and so far there are three. The second is The Long War and the latest is The Long Mars, I can`t say what they are like, but they are on my to read pile,

I`d imagine that Baxter does help cover any cracks. That being said the reviews I have seen for all of Pratchett`s current work are still excellent, but you guessed it I cannot verify that one way or another as I am so far behind on my reading.

As you can tell by the review I really enjoyed The Long Earth, so it is well worth a read. I seem to recall reading an interview with Pratchett where he stated that he and Baxter had just spun out of control with ideas nd that they had enough raw material for (I think) 12 books.

Well worth a read Bick, give it a go.