The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

The Long Earth by Terry Prachett and Stephen Baxter

Terry Pratchett has a birthday coming up on Monday, April 28, so this is a great time to talk about the first book in one of his newer series.  Why not post this on the 28th?  Well, April 28th is also the birthday of another popular author.  Check back on Monday to find out who!

Sir Terry Pratchett is one of the most prolific and popular authors writing in Science Fiction and Fantasy today. Stephen Baxter is almost as prolific, and due to his education in mathematics and engineering, tends to write “hard SF.” Together they have come up with a very intriguing sci-fi concept: what if people were able to “step” across to innumerable, parallel Earths on which humans never developed? Now we have infinite room for humankind to spread out, to explore, and to begin again. It would seem that this new discovery would be of tremendous benefit to humankind, alleviating our looming over-population problem as well as the drain we’re placing on the Earth’s natural resources. However, this new discovery brings its own set of problems for humanity to deal with.

Iron cannot be stepped, so each new world has pre-industrial technology once settled. A few people can “step” naturally, most can do it with the help of a small machine, and some cannot step at all. Families are stepping out to distant Earths to explore this new frontier, and sometimes one member of the family is unable to step and must be left behind. This, naturally, causes resentment and a fundamental extremist group is started to protest stepping. The governments also become concerned when people start emigrating from “Datum Earth” to these new lands en masse, deserting cities and towns and no longer paying taxes to support their home world. Laws are passed which state that anyone living within the same boundaries of the U.S. on other Earths must pay taxes to – and are subject to the laws of – Datum Earth. Anyone who’s watched old Western movies knows that enforcing laws in a distant and vast frontier is difficult at best. Last, but not least, there’s also an artificially intelligent consciousness named Lobsang, who recruits one of the first steppers, Joshua, for a vast exploration by airship of the seemingly limitless worlds throughout “the long Earth.”

Pratchett and Baxter have written a great story with very real characters and truly infinite possibilities! Be warned, though that it ends on a cliff-hanger and you’ll need to continue with the sequel, The Long War. The third in this series, The Long Mars, is due to be published in June. Get ready to start a great reading adventure, and it all starts with a single step – to the library.

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