Category Archives: Terry Pratchett

The Long Earth – Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter

If you visit this blog regularly (and I don’t dare to presume that you all do) then you might be surprised to see me writing about Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter’s first collaborative novel ‘The Long Earth’ because I don’t really read much in the way of science fiction at all, if anything really. However if you listen to the podcast The Readers which I co-host with Gavin of Gav Reads, my having read this book may be less of a surprise as you will know that we had the honour of interviewing Sir Terry and Stephen for a special episode, which if all has gone well should have gone live today (I am on holiday though so can’t quite guarantee it), and so I threw myself into the novel and the genre in advance.

Doubleday, hardback, 2012, fiction, 352 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

I have to admit that I might struggle to summarise the premise of ‘The Long Earth’ because it is rather complex. This actually concerned me before I had even started the book that I was going to get very, very lost by it. You see ‘The Long Earth’ is centred around the idea that as well as our earth, or Datum Earth as it is known in 2015 in this book, there are infinite parallel earths. Most people up until 2015 haven’t been aware of them, however on a single day the design for a Stepper leaks, a device which can transport you to them all one at a time and can be made using items easily found around the house. So children start stepping and disappearing. Yet there are people how can naturally ‘step’, and we discover there have been for decades and even centuries. One such natural stepper, Joshua Valienté, attracts attention when the other kids at the children’s home he lives in start vanishing and he saves them and brings them back. Police and big corporations want access and guides to ‘The Long Earth’ and so from here we follow Joshua’s journey and discover with him as he goes.

I admit writing that made my head hurt a little, so therefore reading it might have done, yet it isn’t as complex as it sounds. There is also much more too it as really I have only described the setting up of the story, much more happens from here on in. Yet at the same time it doesn’t… Let me explain. You see my other initial concern, after how would my head cope with all these earths, was that with endless versions of earths ahead this book might become a little repetitive and dull, yet it never quite did. There was a small moment at one or two points where I thought ‘come on, where is this going’ but they were brief.

Pratchett and Baxter create a really interesting Datum Earth, they also create many possible back stories with characters like Private Percy Blakeney who we meet ‘stepping’ during the war in 1916. There is a real sense of humour to the novel, one of the characters initial appears as a vending machine to which there were some giggles from me when he ‘lets a can go’ as it were, there is also the side effects of stepping too. It also looks at big subjects affecting earth now. There is a strand to the story which is about divides, some people simply can’t step even with the machine, and so the debate about ‘difference’ is part of the book as is human nature. As soon as new planets are found some people go to find their own private Idaho, yet some go to pillage and consume, other want to control.

My only slight qualm with the book was that it did feel like the first in a series. The fact the book does rather slowly, if with moments of adventure and discovery, trawl through each parallel earth made me think ‘this isn’t nearly the whole story’ and also the ending very clearly suggests there will be more. I should state that I knew beforehand there were more books coming so that could have been in the subconscious part of my brain but if I am doing a fair and honest review (which is always my aim) I sensed it throughout, I could feel things were being slightly reined in for the future and the bigger picture.

That small quibble aside I was rather surprised how much I enjoyed ‘The Long Earth’ being as it is not my normal reading fare at all. I lost myself in the world/worlds that were created for me and had a bit of an adventure along the way. I can’t say I will be throwing myself into science fiction from now on but I will certainly read the follow up to this and will definitely be trying some of both Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter’s other solo novels in the future.

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Where Should I Start With Terry Pratchett?

For various reasons, one of which is very exciting but I don’t want to jinx it yet, I have decided it is high time that I read some Terry Pratchett. The thing is… where does someone start with his books? It all seems rather complicated and so I thought that I would ask all of you.

You see, the easiest option would be to start at the start of his career but I went off to do some research and couldn’t really work out what his first book was. ‘The Colour of Magic’ kept coming up, and I know that is the first Discworld book more on that shortly, then I heard that actually he wrote some other books before that. I think ‘The Carpet People’ was the very first wasn’t it? This leaves me puzzled. Should I simply be heading straight to the Discworld series? However that doesn’t seem simple either.

I generally like to start a series at the beginning, in this case it would be with the aforementioned ‘The Colour of Magic’ yet every single fan I have encountered, mainly on twitter yesterday, said ‘oh no, don’t start with that one’. Ok, then where should I start? The lovely Gavin, my co-host on The Readers, has said that I should start with ‘The Wyrd Sisters’ (and he is the fountain of all Terry Pratchett novels to my mind) is he right? Or would you start elsewhere and if so why? I should add here I did get ‘The Wyrd Sisters’ from the library last Christmas and then someone ordered it before I had gotten round to it so I have been contemplating finally reading Pratchett for a while.

I do actually own a Terry Pratchett book already, so this throws another twist into the mix. It is one of his collaborations ‘The Long Earth’ which he has written with acclaimed science fiction writer Stephen Baxter. Should I simply start with that, or head to ‘Good Omens’ which he wrote with Neil Gaiman?

It is all so confusing, can you help?

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