The Long Mars by Stephen Baxter and Terry Pratchett

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Mad Mountain Man
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The third book in the Long Earth series, Long Mars continues the story of humanity’s discovery, exploration and exploitation of the multi-universe parallel Earths and now Marses (as a word never designed to be pluralised this is what the authors went with). It’s hard to know what more to say as a synopsis of this book because, it saddens me to say, that really not much happened and it took too many pages for it to not happen.

The biggest flaw in this book is its extreme episodic nature. I did not really notice it so much in the previous two books but looking back, the same is very much true of them. Now that in itself is not necessarily such a terrible thing, there are many exceptionally good episodic books, but the closer I look back at these books I find that many (most?) of the episodes were largely irrelevant to either the story being told by each book or (so far) the overall story of the series. Tied in with this the authors (or was it really almost all Baxter by this point?) seemed overly obsessed with travelogues; extended voyages of discovery across the many worlds of the Long Earth and now the Long Mars. In the first book there is an epic journey to the far ‘West’ and the second book one to the far ‘East’ and this book it’s back to the ‘West’ again and another through the Marses. This would be all very well if anything much was achieved by these long voyages but in reality they seemed to be little more than vehicles for the authors to explore all the extremist varieties of life that they can imagine. They were all very colourful but really contributed very little to the main story. Partly as a result of this, I suspect, they also seemed to struggle with good titles for the books. The first was reasonable but the second, The Long War, had no wars with just one thread, and not really the most important one, eventually avoiding a war. And the third the Long Mars again only having one thread, again not really the most important one, having anything to do with Mars. I won’t even comment on what I thought of the deeply flawed evolutionary picture of Mars they came up with.

So, for me the whole series is now feeling very patchy and disconnected. The basic concept and ideas are very all very interesting, but the authors have struggled to put a solid story together within this setting and instead have padded it out with far too many irrelevant diversions. All of which leaves wondering whether to continue with the remaining two books.

3/5 stars
 

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