Sci-Fi/Fantasy isn’t a genre I read often, but once in a while a title comes along that catches my eye. The name Sir Terry Pratchett, along with an unusual premise, did just that when I read about The Long Earth, co-written by Stephen Baxter.
When the instructions for creating a Stepper — a device that uses some wires, a switch and a potato — are suddenly all over the internet, kids start disappearing. Only one, Joshua Valiente, remains calm when he discovers they’ve arrived in a parallel Earth. Soon people start leaving what becomes known as Datum Earth, stepping across the Long Earth, mostly heading west, bringing whatever they can carry, as long as it’s not metal, the only element that can’t make the jump.
15 years later, Joshua is asked to embark on a voyage to find the end of the Long Earth, if it even exists, accompanied by Lobsang, a reincarnated Tibetan in the form of a soda machine who has convinced the courts that he is a human being. Joshua and Lobsang step across thousands of worlds, though Joshua is unaware of Lobsang’s ulterior motive. They observe worlds that slowly change, with creatures that often bear only a minor resemblance to those on Datum Earth.
While Joshua is the focus of the novel, there are others that occasionally take center stage. A police officer with an innate ability to remain calm in the face of the unexpected and unknown; a family travelling to beyond the 100,000th Earth, leaving behind a son who is one of the few unable to step; the daughter of the man who first discovered stepping. The political, social and economic impacts made by the existence of countless parallel worlds are all explored.
The Long Earth was expertly created by two masters of their craft, imagining dozens of potential Earths and their inhabitants. Certain aspects are never explained, left up to the reader to imagine. The plot sort of meanders, without a real destination, though the book description suggests this is the first in a series, which explains the cliffhangerish ending. I recommend this novel to those who enjoy Sci-Fi/Fantasy or want to give it a try.
Nancy wonders if there really are alternate worlds out there. She writes about her boys, books and life in Colorado at Life With My Boys and Books.