Sunday, 15 July 2012

Book Review: 'The Long Earth' by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter






The Long Earth
by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter



Published: 21st June, 2012
Publisher: Doubleday
Format: E-Book
Pages: 352


Cover Art

I really adore this cover. It makes me feel all squishy and 'yes nature...you go nature'. It is quite epic and beautiful and the lone male figure is a good representation of the loneliness of infinite Earths. The birds flying away is kindof ominous and pretty at the same time which, again, is quite perfect for this book.


Plot Synopsis


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...

The Long Earth is the first novel in an exciting new collaboration between the creator of Discworld Terry Pratchett and the acclaimed SF writer Stephen Baxter


My Rating:

First Line:
''In a forest glade: Private Percy woke up to birdsong"
Pocket-Size Review
It took me over A MONTH to read this book, which reflects how dull, slow and pretty tedious it was overall.


Highs: Good writing, pleasant characters, some nice concepts of infinite Earths.
Lows: Just...nothing special. Nothing excited me and the ending REALLY ground my gears.


Review

This is one of those books. You know the ones that you look forward to for weeks, circle the publication date in your diary and squee over when you finally get your hands on a copy. Then you spend the first few chapters telling yourself 'it's not so bad...it'll get better...it has to get better....WHY ISN'T IT GETTING ANY BETTER?'. That's called denial my friends and it doesn't work. So, instead of writing the glowing review I thought I would be writing the day I finished this book I am instead writing this one outlining how dull and utterly tedious this book was. Sob. I still love you Mr Pratchett. Just about.


Firstly, can I just take this opportunity to say how stupidly irrelevant the 'plot synopsis/blurb' is for this book? When I copied and pasted it in from Amazon, I had to take a moment to remember who 'Percy Blakeney' is and, what his significance was in the book. It certainly wasn't significant enough to warrant a starring role in the synopsis; his tale is a side story away from the main narrative. The main characters, Josh, Sally and Lobsang who, to explain it briefly, are three misfits travelling together across the Long Earth (a series of different versions of Earth parallel to each other) in a huge aircraft called 'The Mark Twain'. See that anywhere on the back of the book even though it comprises 75% of the plot!? NO. I hate a misleading blurb that gives you a false impression of a book and makes you think it will be something it's not and that's what you get with this book. I know some publishers/authors don't like to give too much away, but in cases such as these where the blurb is so different from the actual content, you are just setting the book up to disappoint and confuse people and for the wrong audience to pick it up. Gahhh.


The next problem I had: this book doesn't feel like Pratchett. It has none of the fun and frivolity of Pratchett's regular books, or the charming Englishness that is what I absolutely ADORE about his books normally. I haven't read any books by Stephen Baxter, and I don't think I will be any time soon. There were little injections, morsels if you will, of Pratchett style and wit, but they were gone and buried just as soon as they arrived. If you are looking for typical, comforting Pratchett then I would definitely not recommend this book. 


The plot really leaves a lot to be desired. The characters are take-em-or-leave-em and nothing made me want to pick up this book and keep reading. There is no suspense or drama; instead, it felt like an endless journey flying through Earths spotting a strange animal or two and looking at the sun shifted slightly to the right. Not exactly gripping. I found Sally irritating and hard to like, and Joshua was just plain hard to read and work out. There was a bit of romantic tension between them and, to be honest, because the book was so tedious I was praying for some sexy action or, at the very least, a bit of good old-fashioned kissing. It didn't happen. Harumph.

It's not all doom and gloom though. I did like the general concept of the book and, if it had been delivered in a more exciting way, I might have been able to get on board with this book! To get into the next Earth along in the chain, you have to be able to 'step' which is, simply, teleporting into the next world with the aid of a special box powered by a potato (I think Pratchett may have had input in that!). However, Joshua, our main character, is different because he can step naturally, without the box. Natural steppers are a rare breed and, as the Long Earth creates the inevitable socio-economic problems you would expect, these people start to be stigmitised as 'bad' and 'a threat'. The word terrorist is even bandied about, particularly by people who are 'phobics' (they can't step at all without getting violently sick). I really liked the backlash to the natural steppers at it felt like something that might actually happen. With infinite worlds comes infinite plenty and infinite choice and infinite possibility and, as human beings and as Westerners, I have a feeling we would fall apart over losing the fragile structure our society is based on and facing the uncertainty of the new Earths. Where Joshua embraces the calmness and 'The Silence', I think we would recoil from it and be afraid of it and huddle together and pretend it wasn't happening. The rich are the ones who cling to the Datum (original Earth) while the poor are more likely to stay away. I think that is a very accurate image; only the rich would be pathetic enough to cling to their money and not adventure out into the new worlds. In the West, we have had it too good to throw it away so easily. That was what I loved about the Long Earth; it made everyone equal and everyone suddenly had everything they needed.


There is another side plot involving a family led by an ambitious mother who is determined to step her family out on an exploration despite the fact her son is completely step-phobic and unable to travel with them. A small price to pay in her mind. I thought this represented the other side of human nature: so full of idealism about the future and conquering new lands that they are prepared to abandon their own children. Suffice to say, her son becomes a less than savoury character when we meet him again later in the novel.


Overall, I think I may have been ready to forgive this book until I reached the final page. Then my apathy turned to disbelief as I realised the book had actually ended. It ends so abruptly you don't even realise it has ended. It is ridiculous. It really annoyed me, because this book does not feel like a series, but now I feel like it has to be. No book can end like that and not have a sequel surely? However, if it does I doubt I'll be reading it.


Other Thoughts

This Book has Inspired me to Read: Pure Pratchett. I am on Discworld 5 so maybe it's time to go back to Ankh Morpak.
.
Three Words to Describe this Book: Tedious, Slow, Dull.

2 comments:

  1. Awe, I'm sad to see this was kind of a dud for you. Especially surprised since Terry Pratchett's name is on the front, and his is not one I enerally associate with dullness or slow plots. I totally feel your disappointment. =(

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