Book #42: The Long War (2013)

20130320-102615authors: Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter
language: English
length: 437 pages
finished reading on: 22 October 2013

When I finished The Long Earth, I immediately figured out (partly because it was advertised on the last page of my copy of the book, to be honest) that the sequel was already out, so I could download it nigh-instantly and read it electronically. Unlike its predecessor, which I finished in just three days, this took me almost two weeks. I’m not sure why, I have to admit. I think a lot of my commutes are already taken up by podcasts, and along with three being cycling days, I actually only have one day left in which I read books on the way to or from work (audiobooks are thus a bit faster to “read”, as I can listen to them while cycling). The day when I started reading The Long Earth, I was also going on a relatively long train journey to visit Yokosuka, which got me through pretty much half the book straight away, and I just carried on with that momentum.

This book starts off about a decade after the last one finished, but is kind of a continuation of the story and themes that the first book started. Some characters are a little unexpected – a minor character has become the wife of Joshua, the main character, for example. Political problems mentioned in the first book get exacerbated for various reasons in this book, and the state of the “Datum” (original) Earth is explored in a bit more detail, with some very unsubtle foreshadowing as to what will happen at the end.

The problem of transportation that existed in the first book, with big stepping zeppelins called twains that transport things and people quickly from one world to the next. It’s noted early on that all these twains have to have consciousness, and are thus embedded with a bit of the consciousness of the character Lobsang, and by extension the Black Corporation, allowing the authors to make thinly-veiled criticisms of modern consumer culture and brands like Apple and Google.

There are also new races introduced – kobolds, which are sneaky creatures fascinated by humans, and beagles, which are dog-people. They seem to get names assigned to them by humans, so one of them is called Snowy, which induced a chuckle from me. They actually seem to be intelligent by human standards, although they come back to the old Pratchett trope of alien species being sometimes completely incomprehensible to humans. The trolls and elves of the previous book are also explored in much greater detail and the trolls especially play a big part in the plot, as they start disappearing in the second act.

I really loved the extra chance to explore this world (or these worlds, I suppose is more accurate), and I can’t wait until the next book comes out, apparently next year. I did get a bit confused by the plot towards the end, not sure where it was heading, and I was left wondering what had just happened at one point, right near the end where all the climaxes happened. Part of this may have been confusion at the three or four story strands happening simultaneously (there are two whole new sets of characters introduced who travel across the worlds in different directions for different reasons). Part of it may have been that I was expecting more of an actual “war” to happen during the book, whereas it didn’t seem to turn out that way in the end, the word being more metaphorical. A little bit more streamlining of the plot would have been nice.

I definitely think people should get into this series, in any case – it’s well-written and researched and it shows an enormity of depth and scale that I find difficult to parallel.

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