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View Full Version : The Long Earth- A Terry Pratchett/Stephen Baxter Collaboration



Selrahc
2012-06-21, 10:08 AM
Terry Pratchett's new book, loosely based on the concept he was planning as his next sci-fi novel after Colour of Magic, before that whole "Massive popularity of Discworld" thing happened. Written with Stephen Baxter, a serious sci-fi novellist best known for The Xeelee Sequence.

The Long Earth is a sci-fi novel based around the premise of there being infinite parallel Earths, entirely devoid of humanity that are suddenly discovered and easily accessible. It's planned as the first in a two part series about the universe.

Just came out June 21st in the UK, been out since June 19th in America.

Anybody else reading it? Terry Pratchett is on my "Always buy everything he releases" list, so I had this novel on my radar and got it earlier today. I'm curious if anybody is put off or attracted by the drastic change in subject matter.

WalkingTarget
2012-06-21, 10:21 AM
I know virtually nothing about the subject matter of the book (like you, Pratchett is on my "just read it already" list and I prefer to know as little about a book as possible before I read it).

Collaborations are suspect until proven otherwise for me, though, so I'll probably just hit up a library at some point when I have some time (and after I finish the book I'm already reading).

Selrahc
2012-06-22, 09:44 AM
Review

It's a concept exploration book. You're going to have to wade through a ton of exposition, a ton of new concepts being brought up often. It's pure world building, without much of a real overall story framework to hang it on. There isn't really an antagonist, or a quest or objective. But it's all done well, and I think the concepts involved are really very interesting.

I get a sense that to a certain extent, this book was spinning its wheels and putting pieces in place for the sequel. Introducing the two alien species, the "Planetmind", the Humanity First movement, the Black Corporation... it's the set up to a more traditional novel in the same universe. This book though, was all about exploring the world.

The main characters were quite good. I can definitely see Pratchett's influence there. I enjoyed the slightly more edgy and challenging "Genius Vending Machine" Lobsang over the wanderlust tinged "Natural Stepper" Joshua, but both brought something to the table.


The book covers a lot of conceptual ground in an interesting way. Economic, political, religious, cultural and other ramifications are all handled in what I felt was an intriguing fashion. We got a few "Non main character" viewpoints of people back on Datum Earth, as well as colonists.

From a collaborational standpoint, I think it's pretty easy to see the parts where Pratchett was more in command and where Baxter was writing. Baxter is a lot more punchy and straightforward in his sections, while Pratchett is more discursive. I think overall it works very well though.

If I had a criticism, it's that everything felt very tame. There was never really much sense of threat or peril. The Humanity First Movement and the Elves and the Steppers and Planetmind were all rather hastily sketched, then left behind in the dust as Lobsang and Joshua stepped on.


In summary, it's a very nicely executed concept exploration that sets the ground for future stories in the universe. The collaboration works well, and I would say that if the concept interests you at all then it is well worth a read.

Aidan305
2012-06-22, 06:55 PM
I had noticed the World of Poo, but somehow this one completely slipped under my radar. I thought his next book was going to be "Dodger".

Nekura
2012-06-25, 09:48 PM
Review

It's a concept exploration book. You're going to have to wade through a ton of exposition, a ton of new concepts being brought up often. It's pure world building, without much of a real overall story framework to hang it on. There isn't really an antagonist, or a quest or objective. But it's all done well, and I think the concepts involved are really very interesting.

I get a sense that to a certain extent, this book was spinning its wheels and putting pieces in place for the sequel. Introducing the two alien species, the "Planetmind", the Humanity First movement, the Black Corporation... it's the set up to a more traditional novel in the same universe. This book though, was all about exploring the world.

The main characters were quite good. I can definitely see Pratchett's influence there. I enjoyed the slightly more edgy and challenging "Genius Vending Machine" Lobsang over the wanderlust tinged "Natural Stepper" Joshua, but both brought something to the table.


The book covers a lot of conceptual ground in an interesting way. Economic, political, religious, cultural and other ramifications are all handled in what I felt was an intriguing fashion. We got a few "Non main character" viewpoints of people back on Datum Earth, as well as colonists.

From a collaborational standpoint, I think it's pretty easy to see the parts where Pratchett was more in command and where Baxter was writing. Baxter is a lot more punchy and straightforward in his sections, while Pratchett is more discursive. I think overall it works very well though.

If I had a criticism, it's that everything felt very tame. There was never really much sense of threat or peril. The Humanity First Movement and the Elves and the Steppers and Planetmind were all rather hastily sketched, then left behind in the dust as Lobsang and Joshua stepped on.


In summary, it's a very nicely executed concept exploration that sets the ground for future stories in the universe. The collaboration works well, and I would say that if the concept interests you at all then it is well worth a read.

If that is the case it might be somewhat like the science of discworld which I did not enjoy.

The Succubus
2012-06-26, 07:52 AM
Given Terry Pratchett's last collaborative novel "Good Omens" is possibly my favourite work of fiction (or at least tied with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) I have high hopes for this one....

Ravens_cry
2012-06-26, 08:48 AM
I like these two authors, though their respective styles are quite different.
Will this mix like oil and water or will it be hollandaise?
Only time will tell.

The Glyphstone
2012-06-26, 08:53 AM
Review

It's a concept exploration book. You're going to have to wade through a ton of exposition, a ton of new concepts being brought up often. It's pure world building, without much of a real overall story framework to hang it on. There isn't really an antagonist, or a quest or objective. But it's all done well, and I think the concepts involved are really very interesting.

I get a sense that to a certain extent, this book was spinning its wheels and putting pieces in place for the sequel. Introducing the two alien species, the "Planetmind", the Humanity First movement, the Black Corporation... it's the set up to a more traditional novel in the same universe. This book though, was all about exploring the world.

The main characters were quite good. I can definitely see Pratchett's influence there. I enjoyed the slightly more edgy and challenging "Genius Vending Machine" Lobsang over the wanderlust tinged "Natural Stepper" Joshua, but both brought something to the table.


The book covers a lot of conceptual ground in an interesting way. Economic, political, religious, cultural and other ramifications are all handled in what I felt was an intriguing fashion. We got a few "Non main character" viewpoints of people back on Datum Earth, as well as colonists.

From a collaborational standpoint, I think it's pretty easy to see the parts where Pratchett was more in command and where Baxter was writing. Baxter is a lot more punchy and straightforward in his sections, while Pratchett is more discursive. I think overall it works very well though.

If I had a criticism, it's that everything felt very tame. There was never really much sense of threat or peril. The Humanity First Movement and the Elves and the Steppers and Planetmind were all rather hastily sketched, then left behind in the dust as Lobsang and Joshua stepped on.


In summary, it's a very nicely executed concept exploration that sets the ground for future stories in the universe. The collaboration works well, and I would say that if the concept interests you at all then it is well worth a read.

The question is, will there be any more future stories, or at least ones Pratchett has influence in? The quality of the non-Pratchett segments of this introductory novel would be of key importance to me.

The Succubus
2012-06-27, 08:20 AM
I'm about a third of the way through and I'm liking it so far. It really conveys a sense of adventure and exploration and the little snapshots away from the main character help to remind you of the human element.

If the rest of the book continues along these lines, I'll certainly recommend it.

Aidan305
2012-06-28, 05:47 PM
The question is, will there be any more future stories, or at least ones Pratchett has influence in? The quality of the non-Pratchett segments of this introductory novel would be of key importance to me.

According to a very reliable source I know, Pratchett and Baxter have already started work on the second novel.

Calemyr
2012-06-29, 11:53 AM
I'm about halfway through (taking my time and just enjoying the story), and I've gotta say, I'm loving it.

It's classic Pratchett work in that it's very well thought out, consequences follow logically, and the characters are fleshed out and intriguing. I can see elements of Baxter as well - even though I've never read his work before, the narrative has a more serious, more coherent flow to it that Pratchett's work has never seemed to show.

Lobsang, who in a Discworld book would be portrayed as something like Hex, is utterly serious in an off-beat way, and never treated lightly despite having a self-proclaimed origin as a Tibetan motorcycle repairman reincarnated as a sentient supercomputer. He's always portrayed as slightly mysterious, slightly dangerous, and you can never tell if he's being genuine or manipulative.

That's not to say there's no Pratchett humor in it. The nuns from the home (particularly Harley-riding, Meatloaf-loving Sister Agnes) can be quite fun to read about, and there are touches of absurdity, such as singing trolls.

The side characters get their own stories and it's kind of fun to see them intersect.

What this story kinda feels like is the missing book of the Ender trilogy by Orson Scott Card. You know, the unwritten one where Ender and Jane just board a ship going any old where and explore the universe that Ender helped reshape. Only sweet, pragmatic Ender you get good-natured loner Joshua and goddess-of-the-airwaves Jane is replaced by snarky explorer Lobsang.

My only gripe about the story is its obsession with iron. We have so many kinds of synthetic materials, as well as aluminum and titanium, that can do iron's jobs as well or better, so why is the inability to bring iron when stepping supposed to be so crippling?

Spamotron
2012-06-29, 09:27 PM
Read the Real Weapons and Armor thread sometime. Basically there are a lot of things Steel can do that nothing else really can.

turkishproverb
2012-06-30, 01:20 AM
Given Terry Pratchett's last collaborative novel "Good Omens" is possibly my favourite work of fiction (or at least tied with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) I have high hopes for this one....

That's...not fiction. The names were just changed to protect the guilty. The very very guilty. :smallcool:

dehro
2012-07-07, 07:04 AM
uh, what, where when????
a new Pratchett book is out and I don't have it?!!

I'm a bit wary of collaborations, especially now that Pratchett's health might affect his quality (fingers crossed it doesn't for a long time to come..but we can't ignore reality..).. but I will buy it anyway. I too am one of those "it's by Pratchett. I must have it." fans.
I must say, his latest non-discworld novel "nation" didn't really sit well with me, despite not having many qualms with it and it being well written, it didn't seem inspired, for some reason. Good omens was great..and I actually enjoyed the Discworld science books too.
That said, the fanboy in me would love to get at least another couple of Discworld novels before it's curtains..
to know that he is now writing 2 novels in a row that are non-discworld, makes me think that maybe he's a bit tired of discworld, or maybe he had these planned for some time and has decided to put them out there..
or maybe I should just enjoy them as they come.
I do hope he goes back to writing about discworld too though.

Emmerask
2012-08-10, 08:32 PM
Hmm Iīm not completely through yet (3/4), as a book to establish the setting its quite good what was missing though was a really interesting plot in my opinion.

Though maybe my expectations where just too high after good omens and the first Discworld books which established an interesting setting and very good stories at the same time.

Overall atm I feel its good but not great.

Aidan305
2012-08-10, 08:48 PM
to know that he is now writing 2 novels in a row that are non-discworld, makes me think that maybe he's a bit tired of discworld, or maybe he had these planned for some time and has decided to put them out there.
It's the latter. These are books he's been wanting to write for some time but hasn't been able to. I believe he also has another 3-5 Discworld books that he wants to write.

Emmerask
2012-08-11, 09:20 AM
My only gripe about the story is its obsession with iron.

(Iīm not very good in biology so correct me if Iīm wrong here^^)
Isnīt blood red because of iron ?
Ie the hemoglobin which "carries" oxygen in the body has a few iron atoms and without it we would kind of suffocate ?

Again I could be very wrong here I always was one of the worst in biology class :smallbiggrin:

If this is true then there are some possibilities:

a)you can step with iron, if its coated in enough organic material
some of the iron is still lost, thats where the puking is coming from..

b)they are not actually humans and use other materials in their body

c)the authors just didnīt think about that

Avaris
2012-08-11, 09:45 AM
(Iīm not very good in biology so correct me if Iīm wrong here^^)
Isnīt blood red because of iron ?
Ie the hemoglobin which "carries" oxygen in the body has a few iron atoms and without it we would kind of suffocate ?

Again I could be very wrong here I always was one of the worst in biology class :smallbiggrin:

If this is true then there are some possibilities:

a)you can step with iron, if its coated in enough organic material
some of the iron is still lost, thats where the puking is coming from..

b)they are not actually humans and use other materials in their body

c)the authors just didnīt think about that

Actually, option D) explained in the novel iirc. Something like it being naturally part of you (so A as well I guess)

Read it in pretty much one sitting the other day (I'm in hospital with a broken ankle: lot of spare time) and quite enjoyed it. Lobsang is a great character, but I wasn't too taken with Joshua: he was supposed to be 'special', but the only evidence I really got of this was other characters saying he was special. Still, a fairly good read, and I will pick up the next one.

Emmerask
2012-08-11, 09:55 PM
Actually, option D) explained in the novel iirc. Something like it being naturally part of you (so A as well I guess)



Hm but wouldnīt that mean that they could

create the airship or at least some parts with iron/steel?
The airship then would be the natural part of Lobsang who can step
But I think I remember Lobseng telling Joshua that they specificially the airship doesnīt contain any iron metal which would be kind of a waste if it would work.

It certainly would be something they would have tested I think

Avaris
2012-08-12, 03:46 PM
Hm but wouldnīt that mean that they could

create the airship or at least some parts with iron/steel?
The airship then would be the natural part of Lobsang who can step
But I think I remember Lobseng telling Joshua that they specificially the airship doesnīt contain any iron metal which would be kind of a waste if it would work.

It certainly would be something they would have tested I think


Good point... I'd personally suspect that Lobsang would have thought about this, but given the cost of the project anyway and the valuable nature of iron in other worlds (I think they were building the airship on a non-datum world) possibly decided it wasn't worth the risk of making into a major componant of the ship? Would be difficult to repair for one thing

Tyndmyr
2012-08-13, 09:58 AM
My only gripe about the story is its obsession with iron. We have so many kinds of synthetic materials, as well as aluminum and titanium, that can do iron's jobs as well or better, so why is the inability to bring iron when stepping supposed to be so crippling?

Oh, that's a really big deal. However, it can be solved, as it basically means playing minecraft in each new world.

Still, steel is fantastic general purpose stuff. It would take me(and I'm admittedly a mad scientist) some time to make a proper kit for adventuring that had no steel at all in it. Better not step if you have a pacemaker.

Calemyr
2012-08-13, 11:36 AM
Oh, that's a really big deal. However, it can be solved, as it basically means playing minecraft in each new world.

Still, steel is fantastic general purpose stuff. It would take me(and I'm admittedly a mad scientist) some time to make a proper kit for adventuring that had no steel at all in it. Better not step if you have a pacemaker.

I would have figured a pacemaker would be mostly plastic and gold, but I'm not a doctor.

Oh, I know it's good general purpose stuff, but the premium of it all is a little overblown. Firearms, projectiles, tools, and weapons (even some small vehicles, like a bike) could be crafted to serve using jump-capable materials. Joshua's primary weapon is a glass knife, for instance. It's hard to fathom that a world on the brink of collapse wouldn't be trying to fill such a gaping niche. The discworld isn't the only place with Dibblers, you know.

As for Joshua being "special"... he really doesn't seem to be, and that's exactly why he's special. He's a "normal" guy - even in a very abnormal circumstance. Humans are very communal creatures. There's a reason why solitary confinement is often viewed as massive punishment. Humans rarely have much concept of what it means to truly be alone. Even loners usually require someone around to recognize them as loners. Finding someone truly at peace with the levels of isolation likely in such a mission would be a critical element.

Joshua brings these things to the table.
1) Capable natural jumper - can cover large ground easily with no assistance.
2) Capable survivalist - can survive in inhospitable terrain with no assistance.
3) Natural loner - less likely to snap from isolation.
4) Nice guy - despite being a loner, actually likes people and gets on well in general.
5) Unmotivated - no real personal agenda makes him easily directed and easily manipulated.
6) Honorable - likely to fulfill his word even if angered.
7) Conscientious - Does things 'right'. At all times.
8) Very natural jumper - more at home in other worlds than in Datum.

Put simply, Joshua is an ideal candidate for the mission, and largely because of the peculiarities of his birth: being exposed to complete isolation at birth, being born to a natural jumper, and being raised in a very odd home where incongruity is decried yet exemplified at the same time. He's pretty unique in this book, but we'll have to see in the sequel if it means anything beyond "perfect for the job". Joshua could have easily taken Lobsang's black box back to Datum with limited difficulties, and there wasn't a technological solution that could have done the job at all, much less even half as well.

I will admit I didn't much like the ending. It felt more like a chapter break than a book finisher, but at least all the elements of it were well set up. It leaves me hungry for more (which is clearly the point), but it's an immediate hunger, not a slow burning one. If the next book came out tomorrow, I'd snatch it up in a heartbeat. If it takes a year or so, however, I don't know if I'll have nearly so much enthusiasm.

And Joshua's little belief about other people being perceived as a pressure on the mind... I absolutely believe that. I've been aware of that feeling for twenty years.

Tyndmyr
2012-08-13, 11:45 AM
I would have figured a pacemaker would be mostly plastic and gold, but I'm not a doctor.

Oh, I know it's good general purpose stuff, but the premium of it all is a little overblown. Firearms, projectiles, tools, and weapons (even some small vehicles, like a bike) could be crafted to serve using jump-capable materials. Joshua's primary weapon is a glass knife, for instance. It's hard to fathom that a world on the brink of collapse wouldn't be trying to fill such a gaping niche. The discworld isn't the only place with Dibblers, you know.

I know it's notably ferrous, anyway. It's a big deal for MRIs.

You *could* do it. But it's pretty hard. A purely non-metal gun has been made(briefly), I believe, but it still had a metal casing on the round and a metal bullet, and faced some other issues. I could fix this, sure. However, I'm probably a terrible representation of the average person, and it would still involve some heavy tradeoffs. On any kind of scale, you're probably still going to go with the minecraft route for settling. Send the designs and non-steel things over, use those to get steel and build crap.

Calemyr
2012-08-13, 12:41 PM
I know it's notably ferrous, anyway. It's a big deal for MRIs.

You *could* do it. But it's pretty hard. A purely non-metal gun has been made(briefly), I believe, but it still had a metal casing on the round and a metal bullet, and faced some other issues. I could fix this, sure. However, I'm probably a terrible representation of the average person, and it would still involve some heavy tradeoffs. On any kind of scale, you're probably still going to go with the minecraft route for settling. Send the designs and non-steel things over, use those to get steel and build crap.

Long term, absolutely. Iron/steel is effective, prevalent, and relatively easy to work. The perfect bones of civilization. But travelling and set up is a different story. Basically, I'd figure there'd be a thriving market for the jump capable survivalist tools. Possibly what amounts little more than glorified air rifles for hunting and a few one-shot heavier weapons for defense. The marketplace is the picture of the evolutionary paradigm - when a niche opens up, an exploitable resource is discovered, something will appear to make use of it.

Fjolnir
2012-08-13, 01:02 PM
So I take it this is closer to Strata (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strata_(novel))than a discworld novel?

Calemyr
2012-08-13, 01:21 PM
Judging from a quick look at the plot, yeah. That's a fair description. It's a world-building book more than a plot-building one. It sets up the mechanics of the setting, the slang, tech, and techniques, and examples of the civilizations, peoples, and dangers found there.

It's pretty cool and has just a little bit of Pratchett's tongue-in-cheek satire, but it mostly plays it all straight.