Monthly Archives: April 2014

The Long Earth (The Long Earth #1)

The Long Earthby 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”

Too Close to Home

Too Close to Homeby Linwood Barclay

Linwood Barclay is new to me but I very quickly began to see why so many people rate him so highly. Too Close To Home is the story of a seemingly average family being torn apart as the secrets they have hidden from each other come rushing to the surface. 

It is bad enough to find that your neighbours have been murdered, but when it dawns on the Cutter family that they may have been the intended victims, things begin to get much worse. 

There are ample twists and dead-ends before the truth begins to take shape and with plenty of pace and some tense moments, Lindsay Barclay tells a good tale. It kept me gripped from the very beginning and left me guessing until almost the end. I did kind of work it out towards the end, but had missed a couple of clues along the way.

A really good book. A worthy summer read.

City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments #1)

City of Bonesby Cassandra Clare

The central character of the book is fifteen year old Clary Fray. Being a teenager growing up in New York can be hard enough for anyone. But for Clary Fray, things are just about to get even tougher. During a night out with friends, Clary sees something that she shouldn’t have done, in more ways than one. In a cross between Buffy and the Vampire Slayer and Harry Potter, Clary’s life changes in ways she could never has suspected. And it seems that not only are the people she loves the most keeping secrets from her, but even she is not what she seems. 

And as she confronts the truth about her heritage, she must also learn to accept that existence of a shadow world that she would never have suspect. Clary, along with her friend Simon, find themselves at the centre of a search for an ancient cup. 

With the growth in popularity in the vampire-style novel writers can be excused for sticking to a well tried formula, but that is not what you get from Cassandra Clare. As the first of four, City of Bones sets the scene well. 

City of Bones is a story about teenagers, for teenagers. The book is easy to read and is one I just couldn’t put down. The characters are well developed and their lives sufficiently complex to make them interesting. There are continual twists and turns in the plot, the whole book moving at a pace that keeps the reader interested throughout. 

The world created by Cassandra Clare is intriguing and the tale she tells a compelling one. I couldn’t put the book down and will definitely be looking out for the second in the series.