by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
The sequel to their previous collaboration The Long Earth, The Long War takes mankind’s prejudices and intolerances into the new, parallel worlds that opened up in the first book. Whilst The Long Earth explored the possibilities of a new beginning and a return to the spirit of exploration, The Long War tackles the all too human arrogance and propensity for self-destruction that has littered history for millennia.
Sounds a bit deep, but, this being Pratchett and Baxter, it is not. I am not sure how the collaboration between the two worked, but I can definitely hear Terry Pratchett’s unique characterisations and off-centre humour woven into Stephen Baxter’s imaginative storytelling.
It is twelve years since the Long Earth opened up and humanity began its relentless spread across the endless worlds it offered. For some it has been an opportunity to get away from the stresses of the modern world and return to a more simple and meaningful way of life. For others it is an opportunity to expand their influence and gain power. Joshua Valiente was one of the original pioneers who pressed forward across the myriad new worlds with his companions Sally and Lobsang. Now, twelve years later, he is a respectable married man and wants nothing to do with the changes going on in other worlds. But inevitably, he finds himself drafted into a new expedition to prevent the whole lot come crashing down in war.
The thrust of the plot is simple, but the complexity of the interweaving stories makes it a particularly interesting read. Whilst it doesn’t have quite the same level of humour and comic twists that made Terry Pratchett so beloved by his fans (me included) there is just enough hints of madness and quirkiness to make us comfortable.
The Long War may not be a classic; it is certainly not the best I have read from either author, but it is full of imagination and wonderful characters. From the opening scene with scientists seeming to mistreat one of the long Earth’s indigenous species, to the explosive climax at Yellowstone Park, The Long War is a great little story that will keep any fan of Science Fiction amused.