The Long Earth is a science fiction novel co written by Terry Pratchett, the creator of Discworld, and Stephen Baxter, one of Britain’s top science fiction novelists. The concept of parallel Earths is an old one but Pratchett and Baxter bring new life to it by creating infinite parallel earths completely devoid of human life, containing all types of flora and fauna, known and unknown, and only “the thickness of a thought away”.
The story begins in the year 2015 when an inventor releases on the internet the blueprint of a ‘Stepper’. It is a simple device which consists of a box with a switch on top powered by electricity generated by a potato. Adults consider this a gimmick but children, having no such qualms, follow the instructions and are the first to ‘step’ into the new worlds. Since the Stepper box is extremely easy to make, it leads to a mass exodus and social, economic and political upheaval as humanity is suddenly faced with a vast, infinite array of natural resources and worlds completely free of deceptions and crime.
In the midst of these new developments the protagonist, Joshua Valiente, one of the first children to step discovers that he can step without the aid of a stepper box and also he does not suffer the nausea which other people using a Stepper feel after stepping. He is recruited by a dead Tibetan cycle repair-man reincarnated as super intelligent robot called Lobsang who, knowing Joshua’s talent, decides to take him along on a mission to explore the new worlds and to step further than had ever been stepped before.
The book is a combination of science fiction, fantasy and also a little of Pratchett’s style of wry humour brought out mostly in Lobsang. It balances perfectly two storylines – one with Joshua and Lobsang and one with the changing moods of the people on ‘original’ Earth or as it is referred to in the series: Datum Earth. Although some parts of the story were very predictable, the ideas used were novel and interesting. The Long Earth is definitely one of the best science fiction novels of the year and I hope the rest of the books in this series will be just as good.
A. Reyna Shruti
I HEPP ‘N’