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The Long Earth

After buying the Pompeii catalogue on Monday, I still had a few pounds left on my book token, and since I’d made a special effort to get to the Worcester Waterstones to spend it, there was no way I was going to walk out of the shop without having spent the last penny! So I looked around for a light read to keep me entertained for a few evenings. I settled on The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter. Pratchett I know well as an author – he writes fantasy novels which are always clever and frequently very funny. Baxter I’ve not come across before, but he’s apparently a well known “hard Sci-Fi” author. The combination of the two sounded interesting.

It was an interesting novel, about mankind abruptly learning how to get to a potentially infinite number of parallel Earths, each in its own universe. The twist in the story was that on only one of the parallel worlds (ours, or “Datum Earth”) had humans evolved. All the other worlds were completely empty of homo sapiens, though teeming with life of other kinds, not all of it friendly. Baxter clearly had fun trying to get across the quantum physics behind the idea of multiverses, and the economic realities of humanity suddenly having access to infinite natural resources. Meanwhile Pratchett enjoyed himself inventing the device which allows humanity to “Step” between worlds – a nearly empty box of electronics powered by a potato, circuit diagram included – and devising an irritating and arrogant computer which passed the Turing Test with ease, claimed to be a reincarnation of a Tibetan motorcycle repair man, and variously manifested himself/itself as an android, an airship and a fizzy-drink dispensing machine.

It was rather a bizarre book, reminiscent of a mixture of an earnest Larry Niven and Douglas Adams at his most whimsical. But it was a fun read and kept me quiet for a couple of evenings this week. I enjoyed it enough to keep my eye out for the sequel, which is apparently due to be published next month. I think I’ll wait for the paperback though – it wasn’t good enough to make me want to shell out for the hardback.

{ 2 } Comments

  1. Hugh W | 21 May 2013 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Have you read any of the ‘Science of Discworld’ books by Pratchett et al?

  2. Gillian | 21 May 2013 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    I think I’ve read all of the Discworld novels, but I’ve not read any of the books about the science behind it. Do you recommend them?