Mark Lawrence's Reviews > The Long Earth

The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett
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May 25, 2012

it was ok
Read from May 25 to June 25, 2012

Everyone loves Sir Terry. I love Sir Terry. I love the books & have great respect for the man. This review is simply my opinion of the success of this particular collaboration. I'll be 1st in line for the next T.P book and I'd even give T.P + S.B another go.

From the slew of 4 & 5* reviews already on show I may be out on a limb on this one - so don't listen to me - give it a try.


Collaboration. It’s a word with an unfortunate aftertaste. Collaborators get a bad rap. Sir Terry Pratchett’s collaborations with other notable authors have been limited. In 1990 we saw Good Omens, produced with Neil Gaiman. On the crest of that success Pratchett found another partner in Larry Niven but this effort floundered with Niven producing Rainbow Mars in 1999 as a solo work built upon some of their shared ideas. And now 2012 sees The Long Earth, a collaboration with Stephen Baxter. The accompanying promotion contains a photo of the two grandees locked in combat before a laden bookshelf. A certain degree of dynamic tension does help in collaborative writing, too little and you get compromise writing, too much and it’s never going to get finished. I think here both men were pulling punches and the pages could have benefited from a good blooding!

Collaborations can be port and stilton good, or marmite and custard bad. I suspect it’s impossible for two fine writers like Baxter and Pratchett to serve up anything wholly unpalatable, but the Long Earth feels long, although it is short, and is decidedly blah. Think porridge.

The Long Earth is science fiction. In science fiction the IDEA tends to overshadow the characters and even the story. Here the IDEA has flattened both. Glimpses of story and character may be seen poking out from the margins of the IDEA, vital juices pooling. You can’t see much but you can see enough to know you don’t need an ambulance.

The Terry Pratchett of Discworld fame has not shown up to this party. There’s rarely a smile in The Long Earth, and never a laugh. The idea explored is that Earth sits in one of an infinity of parallel universes and that these become opened up to humanity such that pretty much everyone can step through them like moving from one card to the next in a deck of cards. We get to hear a lot about the impact this has on humanity, both social and economic. Sometimes we hear this from characters who pop up and are not heard of again, giving the book a disjointed feel. Of the hundreds of thousands of Earths open to Joe Public almost all are Earth as it would have been without us. A lot of time is spent detailing minor evolutionary variations in the flora and fauna, to the point where you just don’t care about one more slightly smaller elephant or slightly uglier crocodile. A lot of time is spent hopping from one forest world to the next. It’s an idea that is interesting in a paragraph but becomes increasingly dull over 300 pages.

The writing, line by line, is fine. It lacks trade-mark Pratchett sharpness but it does the job. The story arching over chapters is . . . not gripping. There’s essentially no tension in it. Our heroes (a young man who is very good at moving through the worlds, and an artificial intelligence named Lobsang) are exploring, they don’t have any clear goals stated, nothing is after them, they have no serious problems, they don’t appear worried or even to care that much, and thus as a reader one tends to a similar disposition.

The book ends with a bang, but it’s a rather ineffectual one that is, like the bulk of the book, hard to care about. I’m a fan of Sir Terry’s work and I applaud his willingness to experiment with new styles and new writing partners. I hope he keeps doing it. I cannot though, hand on heart say I enjoyed this book. Not even a little.

Edit: RIP Sir Terry - you left us many great books to remember you by.
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01/30/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-38 of 38) (38 new)

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message 1: by seak (last edited Oct 11, 2012 02:36PM) (new)

seak I've heard much the same from multiple sources now. Looks like I'll be giving this one a pass sadly, because like you said, who doesn't love Sir Terry?

Karenzielinski I very much agree with you.

message 3: by Clouds (new) - added it

Clouds When I heard about this book my first reaction was,
"how the frack did that happen?"
It's exactly not the most obvious collaboration, is it?

I will, without doubt, still buy and read the book because Sir Terry has built up so much goodwill in my house that we'd buy a book thicker than my thigh with nothing inside but the word "Fish" printed over and over again - if only it had Mr Pratchett's name on the spine.

But I'm not expecting The Long Earth to rock my world.

Doug "From the slew of 4 & 5* reviews already on show I may be out on a limb on this one - so don't listen to me - give it a try." As one of those four-star raters, I'd say... it's okay. We're allowed to like different things, right? :-) As long as you're not slagging others for liking it (and you're clearly not), it's all good.

Tari_Roo I find the porridge description incredibly apt :)

Mark Lawrence bizarrely this review - which I didn't really want to write - is far & away my most 'liked' ever. It seems that 1 & 2* reviews get way more attention than 5*s ...

message 7: by David (new)

David Brooke Mark wrote: "bizarrely this review - which I didn't really want to write - is far & away my most 'liked' ever. It seems that 1 & 2* reviews get way more attention than 5*s ..."

I agree. My 2 star review of Zone One has 19 likes.

Learnin Curve Mark wrote: "bizarrely this review - which I didn't really want to write - is far & away my most 'liked' ever. It seems that 1 & 2* reviews get way more attention than 5*s ..."

I don't think your rating has anything to do with it really, you just managed to articulate the crux of the problem with this book in just the right way is all.

message 9: by Patrick (new)

Patrick I agree with your summary: This is a porridgy yarn. There's not a trace of TP's usual verbal sparkle or of his usual intricate story structure--this is a rambling lazy young adult novel that meanders on unobjectionably for a bit too long and then stops. Like everybody else in the roundworld, I love TP's other books. I wish this one had been better.

message 10: by Wim (new) - rated it 2 stars

Wim Vermiert I very much agree with this review, especially the part about it feeling disjointed.

message 11: by Cody (new) - added it

Cody hi guys, I'm currently reading this novel and not even half way through with it. I'm not familiar with either of the authors previous work. should I push forward and continue to read? this book seems to a bit Boring for my taste but if it gets better I'll jeep chugging along.

Learnin Curve Life is too short, trust me, it stays at exactly this pace until the end and then stops abruptly. It will be worth shelving it for a bit until the second book/half comes out.

message 13: by Mark (new) - rated it 2 stars

Mark Lawrence Cody wrote: "hi guys, I'm currently reading this novel and not even half way through with it. I'm not familiar with either of the authors previous work. should I push forward and continue to read? this book see..."

I felt the best stuff happened in the first third.

Belinda I love Mr P as well but am not enjoying his latest books, including this one. He overwrote the last Vimes one and now this seems underwritten. It's a bit heartwrenching as I love so many of his books. Haven't ever read the other guy.

message 15: by Lian (new)

Lian Tanner I'm halfway through and pretty bored. Just about ready to skip to the end.

message 16: by Bob (new) - rated it 2 stars

Bob Milne Two stars is entirely fair . . . precisely what I gave it, in fact.

message 17: by Lian (new)

Lian Tanner Cody wrote: "I'm not familiar with either of the authors previous work..."
Cody - I suggest you go back and read Terry Pratchett's earlier books. Not the ones he has written in the last couple of years, but the large number of wonderful Discworld novels that he wrote up until about five years ago. They are famous for being the most stolen books in the UK - and they well deserve that fame. Definitely NOT boring.

message 18: by Lian (new)

Lian Tanner Belinda wrote: "I love Mr P as well but am not enjoying his latest books, including this one. He overwrote the last Vimes one ..."
I agree about the latest Vimes book, Belinda. It read to me (the first couple of chapters - I didn't get past that point) like someone trying to write like Pratchett and not quite getting there. As you say, heartwrenching. But he obviously intends to keep writing right to the end, because that's what he loves, and who can fault him for that?

Michael Price Please reconsider your review. The 'stepper' is powered by a POTATO and the MOSQUITOES in the Long Earth are insufferable. Pratchett did the usual and made the mundane not so mundane. Remember LUGGAGE from Discworld? I do agree that this novel took quite some time to get through but I will definitely read novel number two starting now!

message 20: by Terry (last edited Jan 29, 2014 11:27AM) (new) - added it

Terry Irving Bravo, Mr. Lawrence, Bravo.

I detest collaborations and their not-so-distant cousins, the "in the world of" branding schemes. And this is coming from a writer who, from time to time, is a ghostwriter himself. John Ringo and Tom Clancy are the prime examples of writers who simply sold their souls for a mess of pottage and let their work be turned into a commercial property--like a Chevy car that's made in China.

Perhaps, like athletes, authors should look at themselves and say, "Well, it's time to hang up the spikes while I'm still on top." (Would that this were financially possible) Then they would be remembered for the great work they did and not for a large amount of not-bad-not-great work they supervised.

(Are there any athletes who still wear spikes?)

All this said, I'm already published under one real name and two pseudonyms and my first real book doesn't come out until May. For the right price, I'm completely prepared to sell out. Sadly, I can't possibly write as well as the best authors--which is the crux of this whole discussion, isn't it?

message 21: by Sara (new) - rated it 1 star

Sara I've started this several times, and as much as I love Terry Pratchett, I just can't get into this book. It's been put away to try and read later.

message 22: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul I managed this and the next one . it gets worse. I still went out and bought the third . I must be getting masochistic

message 23: by Maria (new)

Maria I'm going to be the devils advocate and say I don't like Terry Pratchett as an author at all, and I've never liked any of his books.

message 24: by Bobbi (new) - added it

Bobbi I loved the premise of the first book, and am currently reading the second. The second (so far) has been a disappointment. I don't care for the jump in time from the end of the first, to the beginning of the second. A shame, really, because the premise really does shine with a lot of potential. Your comment about the minutae of the different species is dead on, even more so in book two.

S. Jamin These were my thoughts exactly. It is a very intriguing premise, and the characters *should* be interesting, but ultimately the premise is all this book has going for it. Also, it was 400 pages (or whatever the total page count is, minus 10 or 20) of prologue, followed by 10-20 pages of actual plot.

message 26: by Hudson (new)

Hudson Great review and I loved the bit about collaborations, dead on. I'm sticking to Discworld! (and Good Omens of course)

message 27: by Igor (new)

Igor Ljubuncic The same thing (sense of 2D dullness) happened to me with Raising Steam. The fun and humor are gone. In fact, it started going downhill a while back.


message 28: by Skip (new)

Skip What you say is very true. It's why I have never been able to read the second book, even though I own it.

message 29: by Debbie (new)

Debbie I just bought the first discworld book. I'm excited to start since I've heard great things about that series.

message 30: by Tim (new) - rated it 2 stars

Tim Thanks for this spot-on review. Sometimes when one doesn't like a book that get great reviews, you sometimes think "crap, I think I missed something important in this book here..."
Sometimes, it might be the other way around :p

message 31: by Bill (last edited Aug 20, 2016 06:51PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Bill Green Mark .. I agree with your review... just posted mine. I feel that this is a well-written short story disguised as a novel. Check out my review

message 32: by Jay (new)

Jay Royston exactly my thoughts, just longer! porridge.

message 33: by Nogueira (new)

Nogueira really? I have this one on my amazon wishlist... I grew up reading the discworld books and I really like Terry Pratchett novels... guess it will be on standby for a while, but I'll read it one day for sure, even if only the first third... :-)

message 34: by Nogueira (new)

Nogueira just one thing about collaborations in Sci-Fi writing, for me Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry Lee made a pretty good team with some awesome books, don't you agree? Try "cradle" ic you never read it...

Milou I am about a third in and you voiced my exact thoughts.

message 36: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue I have to say, I am a Baxter fan. I think I have read all his books, some twice or more. I havent read a lot of Terry Pratchett, but what I have read, I have found hilarious. The problem with this "collaboration" I think, is that by the time it got going, Sir Terry was already likely sinking into the depths of his illness, and was not able to provide the necessary fun, which the premise of the stories lead us to believe. Baxter tried, but he is not a comedian... Sir Terry was. A odd choice for collaboration, but then, I don't think anyone could have done it justice. Its sad that we have lost Sir Terry, but don't dismiss the books out of hand. I liked them

Stevie Kincade I liked it. My guess is that they came up with the ideas together, Baxter wrote it then Pratchett added some character and humour.

Richard Webster I think the characters are just there to support the ideas as a whole. They are there mainly as a narrator to voice a description and a few answers to what if questions that many people have, to try and give a view on what would happen if tomorrow we were given new worlds and new opportunities and face the different probabilities that earth could have experiences where we as a species never came to be. I think it is a fascinating book, and whilst yes, not hard sci fi or a true terry pratchett book, there is enough practical science, enough liberty taken with ideas, and enough absurdity from pratchett to make it a good combination and a great book of concepts that just so happen to have huimans in it. then of course "MURICA" decides that it must conquer the long earth as well

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