The Long Earth
by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
Cover Artist: Getty Images
Review by Gayle Surrette
Harper Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780062067753
Date: 19 June 2012 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The Long Earth, by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter, harkens back to the journey of discovery tales of Jules Verne such as Journey to the Center of the Earth, Around the World in Eighty Days, and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Those books, while they may have some impetuous for the journey, were really just travelogues of the voyage -- what they saw and what they learned. In The Long Earth, Pratchett and Baxter get to play with the idea of alternate worlds -- in this case alternate Earths -- and how small changes might have altered them.
The book starts with a soldier, Private Percy Blakeney, on the Western Front, who suddenly finds himself in a heavily wooded area away from the sounds of the battle field and the dead and the dying. His tale is followed by that of a young girl who is in labor and finds herself alone in the middle of nowhere -- alone and in pain. These are two glimpses of people who stepped out of our Earth and into another one by accident. Then comes Step Day.
Someone uploaded plans for a very simple device, powered by a potato, that just about anyone could make, that would take them away to another world. Of course, many people built these device and on Step Day in Madison, Wisconsin, they stepped. It was that day that Joshua Valienté, who tried very hard to not be noticed, became a hero. He also came to the attention of MDP Officer Jansson.
The world changed. People could step with Stepper devices from our Earth to any one of no one knew how many other earths. People became creative in the use of these other earths but our Earth was slow to appreciate how this would change our economy, our society, and our way of life.
Mostly told from the point of view of Joshua and Officer Jansson, readers get taken on a journey of discover with Joshua, interspersed with observations on the ramification of this new ability from Jansson.
It's a slower pace, but with ample opportunity for the reader to think about the many different earths that exist along The Long Earth.