by Terry Pratchett, Stephen Baxter
Whilst I have been a great fan of Terry Pratchett’s work for many years, the only other work by Stephen Baxter I have read is the Time Odyssey series with Arthur C Clarke. So, just what do you get when a serious sci-fi writer teams up with an eccentric fantasy writer? Good question. For me, it is neither one thing nor the other, a serious story with some very surprising characters and twists.
I have often wondered about how writers go about collaborating on a project like this. Does one of them come up with the idea and the other flesh it out? Do they lock themselves away in a darkened room and fight over who gets to write the next line? I suspect it is neither of these, but the picture that the later conjures in my head, of Terry and Stephen laying into each other with sharpened pencils is one I think I will keep me amused for a little while yet.
Do, what about the book then? Well, as you would expect from any project involving Terry Pratchett, the wall between reality and fantasy are perilously thin. I am sure that everyone is aware of the many worlds theory which states that there is a very large – perhaps infinite – number of universes, and everything that could possibly have happened in our past, but did not, has occurred in the past of some other universe or universes. In “The Long Earth” Terry and Stephen use this hypothesis to create a host of parallel universes, in each of which evolution has taken a slightly different track, and opens a door between them all.
Not an original idea in science fiction, but one I have never seen tackled in this particular way before. In a world where resources and land are becoming increasingly under threat, the possibility of “stepping” into another world, untouched by mankind and his industry holds great fascination.
Travel between the different “Earths” is opened up by the invention of a device powered by a potato! But it is soon discovered that there are some people who can “step” between the different universes naturally. One such natural stepper is Joshua Valient who finds himself travelling across the Long Earth with a sentient AI as companion.
Most of the characters are pure Pratchett, as are some of the situations, but the story has a serious edge to it that is obviously down to Stephen Baxter’s input.
There is enough eccentricity in the characters to satisfy most Terry Pratchett fans, and enough serious stuff to awaken my interest in Stephen Baxter’s work. I really enjoyed the collaboration and look forward to reading the next instalment “The Long War”