This is a blog with spoiler free reviews. Most will be Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, but there will be some books in other genres, including the occasional Non-Fiction review. There is an ongoing series of Cover Reveal Round-Ups, and sometimes I'll write an article on something that interests me.

13 February, 2013

REVIEW: THE LONG EARTH

Cover photographs by Getty Images
Cover design by R. Shailer/TW

THE LONG EARTH
BY
TERRY PRATCHETT
&
STEPHEN BAXTER

ISBN: 978-0-857-52010-4
Pages: 344
Publisher: Doubleday
Published: 21 June 2012

On the cover:

1916: the Western Front. Private Percy Blakeney wakes up. He is lying on fresh spring grass. He can hear birdsong, and the wind in the leaves in the trees. Where have the mud, blood and blasted landscape of No Man's Land gone?

2015: Madison, Wisconsin. Cop Monica Jansson is exploring the burned-out home of a reclusive - some said mad, others dangerous - scientist when she finds a curious gadget - a box containing some wiring, a three-way switch and a...potato. It is the prototype of an invention that will change the way Mankind views his world for ever.

And that's an understatement if ever there was one...

   Parallel Earths isn't a new concept in Science Fiction, but the way it is handled here brings a new angle on it. The concept here is a great one, and it is something that can really be explored in a myriad ways. Unfortunately the way it is explored here leaves a lot to desire.
   The book starts out really slow, jumping back and forth in time, and doesn't really move forward for a very long time. There's too many threads at the beginning of the book, at times it felt like reading a collection of story ideas or a short story collection set in the same world. These different threads do add some flavour to the world the story is set in, but they do feel repetitive and they don't really add much to the novel overall.
   For me it was also frustrating that these different stories brake up the flow of the narrative. There is simply too many "false starts", making the book feel choppy and jumbled. Considering the relatively short length of the novel they felt more like padding added for length than anything else.

    Far from everything is wrong with this novel. I've already mentioned the great concept, and there are some interesting characters too. Perhaps the most interesting character isn't actually human at all, but an AI. It's kind of a bold move to have the main character play against an AI for large parts of the book, but it works very well.
   There are two interesting secondary characters too. One of them is introduced at the beginning, and the other we  meet much later in the story. Both of these seem well rounded, and they do serve to get the reader much nearer the main character. Apart from that one of them has quite an interesting story of her own that we get to follow.

   Where the novel excels, is in the worldbuilding/concept. The central idea of an endless number of parallel Earths is absolutely excellent, and what we learn about how that works is fascinating. It quickly becomes obvious that this is a setting in which anything can happen, and as such it's impossible to see where the story is going.
   And since I'm back to the story, I must mentioned that the ending was a bit of a letdown. Not because it isn't very interesting, because it is, but the cliffhanger ending comes as a disappointment when so much time has been "wasted" earlier in the novel. You are left with the feeling that you have read only half a novel, and that the story is really just beginning, by the time you turn the last page.

   Despite it's many flaws this is a novel that is worth reading. It presents a great setting, and just that would make it a worthy read. The story is really good to, when the authors allow it to move forward. As always, it is also very interesting to see Pratchett try his hand on a non-Discworld setting. And as this book has set up everything in detail, I have great hopes for the next volume, and will eagerly be awaiting it.

Review: I Shall Wear Midnight

Links: Terry Pratchett  Stephen Baxter  Transworld Books

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