Andrea's Reviews > The Long Earth

The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett
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bookshelves: british, science-fiction, flipped-to-the-end

A did not finish read.

I think, in its way, this could be regarded as a form of apocalyptica. A device allowing easy jumping to countless alternate worlds (conveniently free of human populations) is invented. Many people embrace this passionately, and rush off to stake their claim in a 'land rush' with no visible end game. A small percentage can't go and others don't want to, but the effect of this mass dispersal is economies collapsing, new religions, fighting among old religions. It's a book about global change.

The book doesn't focus on a single person, showing us the experiences of a half-dozen or so, and headhops through a bunch more, but the primary character is Joshua, one of the first to hop, and also a natural hopper, able to travel without the device. He's an orphan, and inclined to be a major loner, and in part his progression involves finding someone he might want to travel with.

The book didn't work for me in a number of different ways.

The prose scales the pinnacles of beige. The plot is leaden and there's little sense of wonder, of individuals overcoming adversity, or awe or delight. But the biggest problem is Joshua, who is Super Special and Innately Superior to Everyone, so much more in connection with the natural world, so superior in his reactions to the other worlds, so much better a logical thinker, so better able to cope. People keep telling him that, so we can be sure it's not just his opinion. He is full of a combination of disdain and dislike for almost everyone he encounters, and is also a Famous Hero. When the (strangely enormous number of) children in his neighbourhood who simultaneously decided they wanted to follow some guy on the internet's suggestion they figure out how to solder some wires into a circuit and jab them into a potato, he told them that, hey, maybe you should try turning the switch the Other Direction. Genius!

Joshua is extremely unlikeable, and few other characters distinguish themselves in any way. I liked the female police officer a bit, but 20% in I had no Cares left in me and flipped to the end to see whether this was going anywhere interesting. And the answer to that was nowhere unexpected.
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Reading Progress

June 22, 2012 – Started Reading
June 22, 2012 – Shelved
June 24, 2012 –
0.0% "Hrm. I can accept that the protagonist is methodical and logical and better situated than the other kids on Step Day because he's not impacted by nausea, but he's really gone is super-special-snowflake territory being the only kid (among hundreds) apparently capable of keeping his head, and thinking maybe of turning the switch/twisting the wires _back_."
June 24, 2012 –
0.0% "I'm only 9% into this and already my suspension of disbelief has gone spung multiple times. Alternate worlds I'm fine with. An obscure physicist posting a schematic "on the internet" and within a day a world-wide response of primarily children soldering their own little boxes together and using them. Did he get J K Rowling and Justin Bieber to retweet or something? How???"
June 25, 2012 –
18.0% "Painful exposition as dialogue, mostly stuff we've been told already. Plus outdated for time period TV references."
June 25, 2012 – Shelved as: british
June 25, 2012 – Shelved as: science-fiction
June 25, 2012 – Finished Reading
November 12, 2016 – Shelved as: flipped-to-the-end

Comments Showing 1-9 of 9 (9 new)

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message 1: by Chris (new)

Chris Fellows Thanks for the providential review, Andrea! A few days ago I finished some other book and the Kindle said, 'people who read this recently also read "The Long Earth" by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter' and I thought, that sounds interesting, but clicking through I thought, hmm, a bit expensive, I'll hold off. Parenthetically, on the basis of Stephen Baxter's 'Titan' (the only one of his I've read), 'Pratchett & Baxter' sounds about as workable a team as 'Pratchett & Bret Easton Ellis'. Ick.


message 2: by Andrea (new) - added it

Andrea I haven't read any other Stephen Baxter, so the most I can say is that Pratchett's contribution must have primarily been conceptual, since the prose doesn't resemble his...joy with words.

A lot of people do seem to have liked this book, but I fell over very early on.


Tamck Right on the money. Every character aside from Lobsang and Josh might as well not exist for all the dimensions they have. And I laughed out loud when it was revealed Joshua was in his late 20s as up til that point I'd assumed I was reading an extremely moody, possibly autistic 14 year old.

I did however, finish it. It's very short.


message 4: by Tony (new)

Tony Nicholls I have just finished this book and I cannot get over how disappointed I am with it.

Despite the experience of the two authors involved the writing is very poor indeed.
The characterisations are weak and thin and the plot just tails off. Its almost as though they ran out if ideas

Very sad.


message 5: by Andrea (new) - added it

Andrea I was surprised by how uninteresting they managed to make all these alternate worlds. Endless possibilities in every world, but it becomes like a book of the most brilliant paintings in history, flicked through so you only get a glimpse of each one.

One thing I didn't mention in my review was a reaction I often have to any abandon-civilisation-to-be-a-pioneer story, which is basically: "Yay for high infant mortality and complications during childbirth!". I like civilisation. So do lots of people. I suspect that any dispersal of population would be _much_ slower, and more oriented toward holiday jaunts. For some the move would be an opportunity, but for many, many, many people, going and setting up a home in a forest...not so fun.


message 6: by Tony (new)

Tony Nicholls Andrea wrote: "I was surprised by how uninteresting they managed to make all these alternate worlds. Endless possibilities in every world, but it becomes like a book of the most brilliant paintings in history, f..."

I sort of agree. I don't think the idea of going off into the great unknown would be a problem, I mean, people headed off to Australia in their droves in the 1950's, my grandparents included, with little idea of what they would find and no expectation they would come back.

I just think they were too dogmatic in their insistence that people would keep on steping over 100,000 worlds to find one that had almost no-one else in it.

If you stay close, you could commute to work in the Datum and weekend by the lake. Also, no-one in the West went "East!" So go East already.

BTW, anyone who thinks they want to give this book a go, mine is already on ebay


Sandy I've just picked this up from the library - maybe I should have read the reviews first. Ah well... as I've got it, will give it a try. Great review Andrea.


Widespread I enjoyed the book very much. The notion of being able to flip from one entire universe to the next while staying in one spot is so original, it rang my bell pretty hard.

I personally could have done without the quasi-mystical foreshadowing, which tantalized only to ultimately disappoint, and the entire concept of Joshua's specialness was handled very ham-handedly.

But the concept! So awesomely trippy…


Richard Webster little sense of wonder... I think that may be more the reader than anything


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