The Long Earth

by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter

Rating: ★★★

I love the premise -- a cheap, universally-accessible saviour that means that people everywhere just suddenly have so much more room. Scarcity solved -- mankind could all live happily as hunter-gatherers, each culture and ideology could spread out and build their own world unhampered by those who might disagree. Exit rights are practically guaranteed -- if you don't like this world, just walk off until there's one that fits. Positively utopian.

The plot is a bit unplotted, though. The archetype is of course there -- once you open up a whole new direction, a whole new frontier to explore, the question immediately arises, no matter how bountiful and beautiful and weird the things beyond, is there an end? How deep can we go? Thematically much of the book is solid, it's just that it doesn't really move very much, until right at the end. Lobsang knows almost everything, so there are not so much developments as revelations, and much of it seems like a gradually-expanding worldbuilding session, with details like the trolls, elves, and ancient natural steppers being added to enliven the fabulous landscapes.

Obviously none of the above is deadly for science-fiction, and indeed this book is perfectly fine as an example of the genre, if lacking in the sort of wit I'd expected from seeing Pratchett's name on the cover. However, the 'first in a series' nature of the book is something of a let-down. The climax isn't, and it's a little odd how Joseph and Sally just turn around and head home with seemingly no further curiosity about the world-eater they just wed to an incredibly deceptive AI. The attempt at a cliffhanger left me cold (the nuns were always only a memory), and several other elements seemed a bit underdeveloped (what's the point of Reboot, other than the journey?).

I picked this up for free, and it's fine enough. One cool idea is decent for science-fiction, and the AI was appropriately chillingly detailed. I don't feel any real urge to read more of the series, but if I find the second lying around somewhere it's possible it'll be worth relaxing with.