Christy's Reviews > The Long Earth

The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett
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Jun 27, 2012

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bookshelves: science-fiction-and-fantasy, 21st-century-british-lit
Read from June 26 to 27, 2012

Twitter review: Pratchett & Baxter's The Long Earth is a cool alternate worlds story about exploration & evolution, but it lacks resolution.


The premise of this book is great - humanity discovers an ability to step between worlds, each world slightly different from ours. The protagonists go exploring across these worlds, collectively called the Long Earth, to discover what's out there, how far it goes, what the purpose of the Long Earth is, and why the other species (homo sapiens appears to have only evolved on our version of Earth, but there are other species of varying intelligences out there) are all on the move and apparently headed toward our home Earth.

This exploring is fun, with cool creatures and discussions about evolution, imagination, and personhood; however, many of these ideas never quite feel fully fleshed out, as the book moves quickly from one point to then next, taking our protagonists above and through these worlds as fast as they can to go as far as they can. So we only get a partial answer to the first question (what's out there). In the process, the final question (why the other species are on the move) is also answered, and that answer is fascinating. Here, too, though, it seems like there should be more to it. Exploring the answer to this question could potentially have made up the bulk of the book but it doesn't. It is discovered and then the answer heads off and out of the main narrative as the protagonists go back on the move.

The other two answers (how far does the Long Earth go and what is its purpose) are never answered.

Some reviews speculate that this is intended to be the first book in a series and we'll get more of this story later. I suppose that's a possibility (but it's not one I'm really expecting). I am more inclined to believe that this open-endedness is part of the book's design - a feature, not a bug.

This is a story about apparently infinite possibilities, after all, that asks us as readers to consider how our lives (as individuals and as species) could be different if the situation were slightly different or if we were given a second chance to start over and explore. The ends of this Long Earth and its purpose, therefore, remain to be discovered because there is no one answer but possible answers unfolding in a multiplicity of directions, possible answers that we can explore and find ourselves instead of being handed closure and answers by Pratchett and Baxter.

I like this concept but, even thinking it through this way, I found the ending disappointing. Read this book for the big ideas and the adventure, but don't read it for answers.
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message 1: by thor (new)

thor b i do not know if it's ok to reveale the end of the book, you have been started such an interesting story...!

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