The Long Mars: Finally getting somewhere

The Long Mars by Terry Pratchett and Stephen science fiction book reviewsThe Long Mars by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter 

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Long Mars by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter still features egregious prose, but it finally begins to tie in some of the unresolved plotlines from earlier books in the LONG EARTH series. We now understand why Roberta (from The Long War) seemed so different; we find out where Willis Linsay, Sally Linsay’s dad and the inventor of the Stepper, has been hiding; and we see more of the Long Earth exploration as the Chinese and the Americans team up to go “where no man has gone before.”

This book also provides the most stunning portrayals of different Earths so far — chilling and inspiring answers to the “What if?” question that haunts our life-lucky planet. Landscapes full of masses of bacteria, of monument-building crabs, of plant life that approaches sentience, all of it like nothing we have here on Datum Earth.

We also have the beginnings of a real conversation about the Prime Directive as Willis and Sally travel to Mars, discover that there is a Long Mars (hey, that’s the name of this book!), and accidentally-on-purpose give stepping technology to an aggressive species that hadn’t discovered it yet. Willis’s lackadaisical attitude towards his responsibility as the technologically-advanced intruder, really sparks some ethical questions.

The other major plotline revolves around the Next, a generation of children born and raised after Step Day, whose development has been influenced by the other sentient species with whom they have come into contact. I think the idea of the Next is really interesting, but I was annoyed by their portrayal as unempathetic sociopaths. The rhetoric that Pratchett and Baxter give to them as dialogue (especially one of them, Paul) is egregious. Paul describes having sex with a regular human: “Well, can you imagine having sex with a dumb animal, a beast?… Fully human from the forehead down, but from the eyebrows up, the brain of a chimp, more or less.” They sound like mini-Hitlers in their defense of themselves as the next step of humanity, and of the “dim bulb” humans as basically animals. I found the earlier portrayal of Roberta much more ambiguous, nuanced, and potentially likeable.

On the whole, The Long Mars left me feeling less despair about where the series is going, but more anger about the shoddy treatment of such a cool idea.

The Long Earth — (2012-2016) With Stephen Baxter. Publisher: The possibilities are endless. (Just be careful what you wish for…) 1916: The Western Front. Private Percy Blakeney wakes up. He is lying on fresh spring grass. He can hear birdsong and the wind in the leaves. Where have the mud, blood, and blasted landscape of no-man’s-land gone? For that matter, where has Percy gone? 2015: Madison, Wisconsin. Police officer Monica Jansson is exploring the burned-out home of a reclusive — some say mad, others allege dangerous — scientist who seems to have vanished. Sifting through the wreckage, Jansson find a curious gadget: a box containing some rudimentary wiring, a three-way switch, and… a potato. It is the prototype of an invention that will change the way humankind views the world forever. The first novel in an exciting new collaboration between Discworld creator Terry Pratchett and the acclaimed SF writer Stephen Baxter, The Long Earth transports readers to the ends of the earth — and far beyond. All it takes is a single step…

Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter The Long Earthfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews


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KATE LECHLER, on our staff from May 2014 to January 2017, resides in Oxford, MS, where she divides her time between teaching early British literature at the University of Mississippi, writing fiction, and throwing the tennis ball for her insatiable terrier, Sam. She loves speculative fiction because of what it tells us about our past, present, and future. She particularly enjoys re-imagined fairy tales and myths, fabulism, magical realism, urban fantasy, and the New Weird. Just as in real life, she has no time for melodramatic protagonists with no sense of humor. The movie she quotes most often is Jurassic Park, and the TV show she obsessively re-watches (much to the chagrin of her husband) is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Her personal blog is The Rediscovered Country and she tweets @katelechler.

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