Quick Hit: Science Fiction full of heady ideas and well-written characters.
So I’ve never written a book review before, outside of maybe some assignments when I was in high school. In one aspect, books are similar to movies, so you’d think it’d be a natural conversion for me. However, I don’t just love books like I love movies – books are literally a huge part of who I am. I’ve alluded to this time and again, but I don’t think it literally comes across how big of a fan of the written word that I am. Except that maybe I type longer reviews than I should, and many of you know that already.
I’m consistently seeking out new and entertaining books to read, particularly in the fantastical, the science fiction, and the horror genres. I tend to use the St. Charles County Library’s “books like this one” feature, and just go on long spirals until I found books that are interesting. And I really like book series too – I just find that so much more can be done with a story when it is branched across several books, and the author (or authors) don’t feel limited. In fact, most series tend to start with authors who feel their ideas wouldn’t be best served with just one book, but need them spread out over several. That’s what happened when Stephen Baxter and Terry Prachett began to collaborate on The Long Earth and its corresponding sequels. Today’s review will be an amalgam of all five books, but mainly focused on the last one, since it’s what I read most recently (obviously).
The Long Cosmos picks up the story of the famous stepper, Joshua Valiente, as he confronts yet another Long Earth crisis. For the uninitiated, consider a deck of cards, with the Datum Earth as the center in the deck. With a “Step” you can go into the next world, a parallel one that is like our earth, but different in miniscule ways. The farther you “step” the more different these worlds seem. And there are also other species of humanoids out there – from trolls, to beagles, to elves, and even a super human braniac race called “The Next”. There’s a lot to catch up on there, I’ll just say to check out the books, particularly books one and two – I was a bit indifferent to The Long Mars and The Long Utopia myself.
I found myself feeling this way for most of The Long Cosmos as well. With Mr. Prachett’s passing, Baxter alone completed the novels, and you can feel the difference in the language at times. A lot of big book series like these contain one of my biggest pet peeves, which is extra explanation as to who the characters are, what the rules of the world are, so to speak, and all together other things that if you read the books should understand already. I know that this is because most book series have installments released years apart, but just reread the previous books if you don’t remember everything.
Probably the best part of this book is its willingness to go deeper into certain versions of the Long Earth than any other has done to this point. Most of the series has been obsessed with going deeper and deeper, rarely stopping to smell the roses. Here, the characters tend to find themselves on one world, and stay there, and it makes for a much better book than the last two treks. Valiente finds himself stranded on a world, and the trolls become not only his saviors, but one older troll nicknamed Sancho becomes his teacher and his friend. I thought that the book series was at its best exploring the characteristics of other humanoids, and that’s why here I liked it so much.
It’s a decent conclusion to the series, but it sure ends quickly. Almost all of these books tend to realize that the end of the book is in twenty or so pages and rush along to a predetermined conclusion. It’s unfortunate, because most of the characters are well-written and deserve better. But, I’ll salute this Navy novel from my twain, with only one thing left on my mind – a better earth is just a step away.