Book: The Long Earth

Authors: Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

ISBN: 978-857-52009-8

The Long Earth is a science fiction book, and the first book in a planned duology, by authors Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter. Stephen Baxter mostly writes "hard" science fiction and is best known for his Xeelee books. Terry Pratchett mostly writes humorous fantasy and is best known for his Discworld series. This is not a collaborative effort that would have immediately sprung to mind.

Terry Pratchett has written humorous science fiction before; The Dark Side of the Sun (1976) and Strata (1981), the first two books he fully wrote as an adult, and his Nomes and Johnny Maxwell series do have science fiction elements, but writing science fiction is certainly not something he is known for.

The Long EarthThe Long Earth is the name for the series of Earths that stretch from our own Earth, each slightly different although all vacant of human life. These are the multiverse, a little understood phenomenon that probably has something to do with quantum physics, with different event outcomes coming true at the same time, creating a new, parallel Earth - and possibly universe - to go with it.

People began to travel, or "Step," to these after a disagram for a Step Box was published online, showing how to create a device that allowed travel between the universes. The Step Box is powered by a potato - not as daft as it sounds, potatoes have been used as batteries and, unlike normal batteries, can also be used as an emergency food source. They can also be grown, also unlike batteries. A diagram of the Step Box is published at the beginning of the book, although usage is at your own risk.

The story is mostly told from the viewpoint of Joshua Valiente, an early and talented Stepper, who is a bit unusual, with asides for people such as Madison PD officer Monica Jansson. Much of the book is Joshua's tarvels across the Long Earth with Lobsang, a Tibetan reincarnated as a computer.

If you are familiar with Pratchett's other work, this has very little in common with it. Similarly, if you are familiar with Baxter's science fiction, this is much lighter. If you are familiar with both author’s work, this does seem to be what you would get if you combined their talents in a science fiction book - a lighter science fiction novel with some humour, although the story is certainly not humorous like the Discworld stories are.

At the end of the book, the authors state that the reason Madison, Wisconsin, USA was chosen as the location of many of the Datum Earth's events was because the 2011 second North American Discworld convention was going to be held there, allowing some cost effective research.

Fans of both Pratchett and Baxter may find the book a bit odd, being neither typical to one author nor the other. The book also explores what the effects would be on the world's economy should resources no longer be scarce but in fact be apparently infinite, with an infinite number of Earth's to obtain them from. The Long Earth is a bit different, and it will be interesting to read the sequel.

The Long Earth
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