Saturday, August 10, 2013

Guest post: A review of The Long Earth

Hey y'all! I'm on vacation, so I've asked some lovely ladies to babysit the ol' AC while I'm gone. You've met Salazar, right? If you read this blog, you should have by now! But if not: here she is :)

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Hi Animated Cardigan readers! It's Salazar here from 14 Shades of Grey, and while Jess is away on her vacation, I'm bringing you the review of a book about, appropriately enough, traveling. Except it's traveling between parallel worlds.

"The Long Earth", a collaboration between Stephen Baxter and Terry Pratchett, opens when a series of seemingly infinite parallel worlds are discovered right next door to Earth and can be accessed with a simple device called a Stepper. There are also natural steppers who can simply walk to these worlds - one step, one world. The book mostly revolves around Joshua, a natural stepper who's been assigned to an expedition to check out these worlds. It follows him and Lobsang, apparently a Tibetan motorbike repairman who's been reincarnated into a computer, as they travel from world to world and see how it differs from the original Earth (now called Datum Earth.) There is a subplot with a policewoman back on Datum Earth, which shows how this discovery affects the world.

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I pretty much worship Terry Pratchett, so I knew I had to check this book out. The concept is fantastic, the characters quirky, and I expected some complex, interconnected storylines, like those in the Discworld books. But I have to say, I was disappointed. The story never goes anywhere as Joshua and Lobsang travel through the Long Earth. The different flora and fauna on each parallel Earth is interesting, but that has no effect on the story, and I soon got bored with it. Joshua and Lobsang discover a mystery somewhere in the middle of the book, but when it's resolved, it just falls flat. Joshua falls flat as a main character too. The book makes a big deal out of the fact that Joshua is Very Special, but I don't see how this Very Special quality plays into the story or how it helps Joshua figure out the mystery (hint: it doesn't.)

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The subplots - how the Long Earth is colonized, how the economy of Datum Earth falls apart, etc. - which frankly I find much more interesting than Joshua's expedition, are touched on but never go anywhere either. The most intriguing subplot deals with a group of "phobics" (people that can't Step) who forms a dangerous movement against the Steppers, but it's only introduced near the end of the book and is over in two chapters. I've never read Stephen Baxter before; still, I suspect that this book is more him than Terry Pratchett. There is a hint of Pratchett here and there, though mostly his sarcastic, whimsical sense of humor is absent. Even though I didn't expect to laugh out loud like with the Discworld book, the writing really is too dry for me. There is a sequel, "The Long War", already out, but I figure if the first book didn't pull me into that world, a sequel won't either.

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Man, I didn't mean to do such a negative book review for a guest post! And hey, maybe that's why it's the perfect traveling book - it's not so captivating that you can't put it down, so you can just pick it up whenever you want.

When putting together an outfit inspired by the book (I always try to with my reviews), I'd thought about clothes one would wear while Stepping, but that would involve layering and hiking boots and things that make me sweat just to think about, so this is an outfit that mimics the book cover instead.

Big thanks to Jess for letting me rant on her blog. Have a great vacation, Jess!

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