My mind is definitely boggling. The concept of the Long Earth in Terry Pratchett’s The Long Earth, which he has written with Stephen Baxter, is still a little unclear to me. I’m not sure if millions of different ‘Earths’ exist on Earth, or if these alternate places are each to be found on their own planet. It possibly doesn’t matter.
I have to admit to not having totally grasped the idea even when Terry explained it to me, two years ago. The thought that with the help of a potato, you can travel instantly to another earth, was almost too much for me. Maybe I have stayed away from Science Fiction for too long? I do feel, though, that the book was a lot more fun than it sounded like when we talked about this potato-enabled hopping. Possibly Terry needs to perfect his sales pitch.
Why is it that in sci-fi you almost always travel? This was less of a space ship journey, because as I said, I’m not sure where the characters went to. I do know where they started from, which was Madison, Wisconsin (my second Wisconsin book in a row, so I will steer clear of that, now). With or without their potatoes, people ‘step.’ Into another world, or ten, and occasionally one hundred thousand worlds. Seeing how you are sick when you step, you can see that it might be hard to step any distance.
We have a Jesus figure, of sorts. And a Hal (who seems a bit Dalai Lama-ish). I think this is all about how we behave on Earth, and the mistakes we make, because we are stupid and greedy. It’s about people who ‘step’ in much the same way the old pioneers of the West went West.
There are nuns, who are very cool, and there are music hall singing trolls and vicious elves. Maybe it’s because I don’t like the unknown, that I felt unnnerved by all the new worlds Joshua and his Dalai Lama pal visit. They pose countless questions about life everywhere. I’m just not sure what conclusions are reached.
You can tell Terry Pratchett has been involved, because there are many absurd characters and ideas (I don’t know what Stephen Baxter is like, but I’m guessing he’s more science), nicely juxtaposed to entertain the reader. I got a little annoyed with one of the minor major characters, feeling she was too stereotypical, but there is actually no reason why someone shouldn’t be like that. So I suspect there is a point to her as well.
The Long Earth has left me with many questions. I don’t feel as if there would be a sequel (I might be wrong), and I suppose I don’t have to have everything explained and sorted out and generally all neat and lovely. (But I’d have liked it…)
And it’s a bit scary what we are doing to our one Earth.