Tag Archives: Terry Pratchett

The Long War (The Long Earth #2)

by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

The Long WarThe 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.

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”

Raising Steam (A Discworld novel)

Raising Steamby Terry Pratchett

always look forward to reading Terry Pratett’s books so was delighted to get a copy of “Raising Steam” at Christmas. 

Despite battling with Alzheimer’s, Terry Pratchett still manages to deliver the goods, albeit in a slightly more subtle and less in-your-face way than his earlier books.

Over the past couple of years the content and style of the Discworld novels has matured. The comedy is still there, but it has mellowed. Terry’s wonderful way of twisting words is still very much in evidence, but the plot has become more involved and the parallels with modern life even more pronounced.

In this, the 40th in the Discworld series, we see some of our favourite characters come face to face with the power, and the wonder, of steam locomotion. This is real magic, not the kind cast by wizards, but made real by ingenuity and passion. 

Dick Simnel is a simple young man from the Sto Plains whos passion for cosines and his slide-rule help him to tame the power of steam and invent the locomotive. The possibilities seem endless and even attract the attention of Lord Vetinari, Patrician of the city state of Ankh-Morpork. But not everyone is as enthusiastic about the advent of the steam age, and Mr Simnel soon finds himself, and his train, at the centre of a battle between traditional values and the drive for progress.

Also finding themselves at the centre of this conflict are Moist von Lipwig, recently appointed master of the Royal Mont, and Commander Vimes of the City Watch. Add to this the ongoing fight for goblin freedom and attempt to overthrow the Low King of the Dwarfs, who incidentally has a little secret of their own, and you can see that it won’t be as smooth a ride as everyone expects.
With his usual wit and ingenious use of language, Terry Pratchett has done it again!

I have read some harsh criticism of Terry’s recent books. Certainly, if you make a direct comparison between “Raising Steam” and one of his earlier works, such as “The Colour of Magic”, the difference is very pronounced. But it is a series and the characters have moved on as much as I have.

I still look forward to every new Discworld story and will continue to do so for as long as they keep coming. My only advice to anyone who has not read any Terry Pratchett is that they start at the beginning and take the same journey I have. There are some wonderful adventures along the way and it’s a journey I would recommend to anyone.