One Small Step For Man: A Review of The Long Earth

The Long Earth (2012)
Written by: Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 341 (Hardcover)
Series: The Long Earth Book 1
Publisher: Harper

Why I Chose It: It’s been on my list for awhile, actually. Mostly because I’m a sucker for a good cover and I really liked the look of this one, but also because Terry Pratchett is a personal favorite. It was on the shelf at the library, so it seemed as good a time as any to pick it up.

Premise:

An unmissable milestone for fans of Sir Terry Pratchett: the first SF novel in over three decades in which the visionary inventor of Discworld has created a new universe of tantalizing possibilities — a series of parallel “Earths” with doorways leading to adventure, intrigue, excitement, and an escape into the furthest reaches of the imagination.

The Long Earth, written with award-winning novelist Stephen Baxter, author of Stone Spring, Ark, and Flood, will captivate science fiction fans of all stripes, readers of Kurt Vonnegut, Douglas Adams, and Carl Hiaasen, and anyone who enjoyed the Terry Pratchett/Neil Gaiman collaboration Good Omens.

The Long Earth is an adventure of the highest order — and an unforgettable read.

There are no spoilers below.


Discussion: So the blurb from Amazon doesn’t do an amazing job at telling you anything about this book, so I will make my best attempt. This book explores the possibility that there are parallel Earths to ours that you can step to. There are natural steppers, those that can step without the aid of the Stepper machine, those that can only step with the Stepper machine, and those that cannot step at all due to physical limitations.

This book follows a natural stepper, Joshua Valienté, as he travels to the furthest reaches of the Long Earth (or what humanity has taken to calling the seemingly infinite number of parallel Earths) in search of some sort of end.

I really appreciated the effort put into worldbuilding. The Stepper kits are pretty cheap and only you can make your own Stepper. They can’t be stolen or given away or purchased already complete. Which means that anyone can afford them, and a better life is only one parallel world away. The implications of that were interesting, with inner cities clearing out as people escaped debt and mortgage payments to set up a new life for themselves several Earths over.

And the worlds these people step to are not particularly barren. There are sapient species that humanity has to be wary of, and an underlying mystery as to why these sapient species are all fleeing down the worlds.

See, Earth is the center, or as they begin to refer to it, Datum. You can go east or west from Datum, but the sapient species are fleeing toward Datum from the west.

I will say, if you’re not sure that you want to take on a five book series, the first story could stand alone. You are left with questions, but for me they weren’t so burning that I couldn’t let them simmer for a bit before I pick up the next one. For all that parts of this book were really interesting, I found the entirety of the book a little dense, and I’m not in a rush to read the next.

As far as a collaboration goes, this one is pretty seamless. I have no idea where Terry Pratchett ends and Stephen Baxter begins, though there were some pretty quirky lines that definitely had a Pratchett flare to them.

In Conclusion: A very interesting premise with decent execution. I’m interested enough to see where the story goes to pick up the next book eventually.

4 Comments

  • J.L. Gribble November 9, 2017 at 1:07 pm

    While I’m a fan of Baxter’s writing, I got pretty burned out on his treatment of women. Can you comment on that in regards to this book? Because I’m intrigued, but don’t want to be irritated/disappointed again.

    Reply
    • Merrin November 9, 2017 at 3:20 pm

      I’ve never read anything by him so I don’t know what he normally does, but I didn’t have any issues with the women in this book. There’s only a few female characters (two mains are a dude and an artificial intelligence that self identifies as a man) but nothing stuck out as being problematic. Hopefully Terry’s influence.

      Reply
  • Shara White November 9, 2017 at 9:04 pm

    I daresay this book is hiding on my Kindle. I don’t know. How sad is that?

    Reply
    • Merrin November 10, 2017 at 9:08 am

      Seems legit to me that a Terry Pratchett book would have figured out how to play hide & seek.

      Reply

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