Review: The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

The Long Earth
Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
352 pages
Published in June 2012 by Harper, an imprint of Harper Collins
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
Source: Publisher

Step Day. Fifteen years ago. Joshua had been just thirteen.
Later, everybody remembered where they were on Step Day. Mostly they were in the shit.

What would you do if you knew that there’s more than one Earth? That there are millions of Earths and you could just “step” from one world to another and start over? Would you? Would you leave your career behind? What about your family? That’s what authors Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter explore in their collaboration, The Long Earth.

It’s Step Day on Earth and all hell is about to break loose. The instructions to build a small box called a stepper are all over the internet and kids are racing to make their own. But what no one knows is the purpose of this small box. That is, until kids start disappearing. They’re reappearing in another world where chaos is ensuing. Joshua Valienté is one of those kids but in the midst of it all, he’s keeping calm and helping everyone get back. Fast forward fifteen years and stepping is a way of life. People are leaving Datum Earth (Earth as we know it), in droves to start over and explore what the other Earths have to offer. The possibilities are endless or are they?

I decided to read The Long Earth because I read and enjoyed Pratchett’s Wyrd Sisters earlier this year. Pratchett and his Discworld series are pretty popular in the blogisphere. When I heard that The Long Earth was being published, I decided to hold out on reading more books from the series and read this instead. I have to say that I made a good decision.

There is so much going on in this book, that if I were to share it all with you, this review would be a page or two long. Seriously. But that isn’t a bad thing. I think it’s good for readers to go into this book not knowing much about the story.

There’s so much for the authors to explain about these different worlds and the pair do an excellent job with world building. Every Earth is different from the others but they all have one rule: iron and other metals won’t pass from Datum Earth to the other worlds. So people are finding themselves having to start over. Some Earths are going through an Ice Age while others are hot and balmy, and also one that’s covered entirely in water. There are weird creatures, nicknamed trolls, whose singing is so beautiful you will stop everything to hear them, and elves who kill for sport. Another similar thing found on each world is that there are no humans.

Pratchett and Baxter go to lengths to illustrate how society might change if people are able to make new lives elsewhere. In the story, the poor and those who are no longer willing to be chained to their careers, leave Datum Earth without a second glance. Their absence hurts economies and empty cities. The rich find their fortunes dwindling but are unwilling to start over again in a new world. Those who are unable to step find themselves in heartbreaking situations, as they are left behind by family and friends. I thought the changes in society were believable even though I wanted to know more about the people who weren’t exploring.

What I didn’t like about the book is that for the first 100 pages, readers are introduced to countless characters. There’s just so much going on. You get attached to one character and the next thing you know, you’re being introduced to another character. There’s this constant back and forth. I almost put the book down for good but I was curious about where the story was leading to. After the first 100 pages, not as many new characters are being introduced and the plot picks up.

Another thing I should mention is that a lot of the book consists of exploring other worlds. I found myself pretty interested in that aspect but I think some people will find the pacing slow. From the cliffhanger ending, I expect this to be the first book in a series.

It’s not a perfect read, but I definitely recommend The Long Earth. If you like quirky stories, robots, parallel worlds, or weird creatures, this is your book. My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

14 thoughts on “Review: The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

  1. This sounds like a good read. I sometimes struggle with lots of different characters, but it sounds as though it all comes together in the end. Not sure about starting another series though…perhaps I’ll wait until they’re all written.

  2. “What I didn’t like about the book is that for the first 100 pages, readers are introduced to countless characters. There’s just so much going on. You get attached to one character and the next thing you know, you’re being introduced to another character.”

    Yep, I agree. This is something Terry Pratchett often does in Discworld, but there it actually works because the characters also appear in other books and we already have context for them. Here, though, not so much. But like you I still really enjoyed the book overall, particularly the exploration aspect. I’m hoping to review it with Kelly soon, so I’ll save my thoughts for them instead of rambling in your comments section :P

    1. Ha! I was just rambling away on your latest reviews! Hopefully the authors are writing the second book now because I would really like to know where all of this is going, especially with that ending.

      1. I don’t think so, K. I remember reading an article somewhere about this being a first in a new series though there’s no date for another book. Plus, the authors left us with such a huge cliffhanger. I want to know what happens to Madison and the nuns.

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  3. I don’t think I’d have the patience for this book. Also, I don’t think I’d go to another earth if I could–going overseas for a few months was bad enough. :p

    1. LOL! My mom is the same way! The only states that she’s willing to travel to are Texas and Louisiana. Other than that, she’s staying in Cali.

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  4. 5 out of 5 sounds pretty promising! I haven’t heard much about this one–though I’m guessing the buzz will begin to percolate. I’ve loved Pratchett’s Discworld books so far but I tried listening to Nation and couldn’t get into it. Maybe it was bad timing. I’ve also tried listening to Good Omens and really enjoyed it but it was difficult to follow on audio. Thinking that Pratchett is too rich to be listened to–must be picked up and read!

    1. I wouldn’t recommend this book for new Pratchett readers. I’ve had the author’s Wee Free Men recommended to me so that’s what I’m recommending to you. :-)

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  5. Oh, what a bummer! I admit I was a little nervous about Pratchett writing a science fiction book, but I hope that if he continues writing, the characters and storylines all iron themselves out (with the help of Steven Baxter, of course).

  6. I’m just writing up my brief thoughts right now. I feel like it’s hard to write a full review without knowing the “full story”. It literally felt like I stopped reading at the end of a middle chapter of a much longer book. Regardless, I’m also giving it high marks!

    1. Yes, Kristen! I wouldn’t have minded if the book was much longer. It was such an interesting story. I can’t wait to read your review.

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