Welcome to The Long Earth, a collaboration by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter that takes us to alternate universes with a utopian bent, and humans devoid of the humanity and history one would hope the future would hold.
But before we begin, I’ve a little disclaimer: this is DEFINITELY more Baxter than Pratchett. The comic wit that has made the latter so popular is not in the abundance you would expect—though the characterization is still quite well done. That said…
Have you yet experienced the truth of Step Day? It was the day a “stepper” device was released to the public, allowing for travel between modern Earth and any number of parallel universes—and coincidentally creating a new rush for colonization that has somewhat…depleted earth. Religious crazies have stepped up their game, AIs are afoot, and the Black Corporation has decided to venture into the depths of the Long Earth with the assistance of Joshua—one of the few and the proud among the steppers that don’t even require a device to “step” anymore.
Naturally owing to the well-travelled nature of the book, there’s some looseness to the POV and focus, but Joshua’s would be our main plot. For all the disjointedness this might seem to engender, the book is almost surprisingly utopian—not dystopian at all. No Hunger Games here, no Road. The book is simply a journey through another time and possibilities—not war, madness, and bloodshed. This is NOT action-adventure, nor even fast-paced. It’s a fresh, unique take on the futuristic genre to lose one’s self in for a time.
There is variety here, and all the things you might immediately assume—a power-hungry AI, a profit-consumed corporation, or conquest maddened humans—are not to be found. There is depth and a well-handled approach to the unusual desires that compel the people of the Long Earth, and rather than detract the piecemeal POVs, short though some of them can be, tend to do a fine job of building the world’s story. Variety is its gift.
But if I might lodge a critique? RESOLUTION. There is some—but not nearly enough. While there’s something to be said for the cliffhangers that lead one to get the follow-up…when my quirky desires have been so stoked, I want some conclusion.