Monday, October 7, 2013

The Long Earth

The Long Earth
Even before Terry Pratchett had even begun his Discworld series, he had an idea about a possible premise for a science fiction series. His fantasy series, however, was such a huge success that he never got around to writing the science fiction work -- until recently, when he collaborated with Stephen Baxter, an author well-known in his own right for his work in the world of hard science fiction. As an avid Terry Pratchett fan, I was eager to find out what it was all about.

I could have waited. This book, presumably the first in a series, is little more than an exposition of the premise. There are a whole string of alternate universes, you see, and people from Earth can easily "step" from one to another. Most people need a device to do it. Some can step naturally; some can't step at all. There is world after world after world, all remarkably alike, differing mainly in the climate conditions and the particular beings that inhabit each world. Even the characters find it boring.

Besides showing us the scenery, the book introduces us to the main characters, essentially cardboard cut-outs with names attached. There is no actual conflict, although there is a foreboding of doom. We actually get introduced to the potential source of future conflict at somewhere around page 300, just before the end of the book.

This is a dreadful, dreadful book, and, as much as I love practically everything Terry has been involved with, I will not be likely to read any future volumes in the series.

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