Thursday, September 1, 2016

Book Review: The Long Utopia, by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

Is utopia possible? And if so, at what price? These are some of the questions posed by the penultimate book in Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter’s The Long Earth series, The Long Utopia.

As The Long Utopia opens, some years have passed since the last novel in the series, The Long Mars. Our main protagonist, Joshua Valiente, is well into his middle age, and is wondering is that all there is. Never mind that he is one of the pioneers of the Long Earth – the interconnected series of parallel worlds that humanity has dispersed through and can travel through by “stepping.” Joshua’s mid-life crisis takes him back to the old Datum Earth – the “original” Earth, now plunged into an ice age thanks to the eruption of the Yellowstone volcano, where he learns more than he bargained for about his family tree.

Meanwhile, other characters, including Lobsang, the delightful android Tibetan monk/motorcycle mechanic, and his equally delightful android wife Agnes have settled into retirement on an idyllic stepwise world of New Springfield with their adopted child. It’s into the midst of this utopia, that in the words of the late Ray Bradbury, something wicked this way comes. It’s this thing that the humans and the post-human Next, must come together to confront if they’re to save the one thing they hold in common, the Long Earth.

No more from me here, except I highly recommend this book. It is a finely crafted mixture of hard scientific speculation and pure whimsy. If you’re not reading the series, dive in; it’s not too late. Both Pratchett, whom we lost recently and Baxter, have exceeded themselves in that most difficult of a writer’s tasks, believable world-building. The series has been a complete joy to read; I look forward to the last book in the series, The Long Cosmos.

What’s Next?

Next month, I’ll have a review of Peter Tieryas’ United States of Japan. Expect also in the following months, a review of the first book in paperback of Harry Turtledove’s The Hot War series, Bombs Away. I am currently reading it and am quite enjoying it. Also on the horizon are two novels by Robert Conroy: 1882 Custer in Chains and Germanica.

Meanwhile, you can help out a poor unemployed writer by purchasing Elvis Saves JFK! for just 99 cents and War Plan Crimson, A Novel of Alternate History, for $2.99 and now The Key to My Heart, also $2.99 (all are free to preview). All books -- which are already on Smashword's premium distribution list -- are also available through such fine on-line retailers such as Sony, Chapters Indigo, Barnes & Noble and Apple's iTunes Store. Thanks.

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