Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Long Earth: A Review in Multidimensional Parts

Because the novel is probably the best piece of Science Fiction/Fantasy I've read in years,
Because the book is filled with an incredible amount of awesome ideas on the entire subject of multidimensional realities,
Because I have no idea where to begin with talking about how fascinating I find the entire concept of this story,
I've decided that I have to review The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter in multiple parts. With a book that concerns the multiverse, It's only fitting, after all...


I have been waiting for The Long Earth for probably over a year, and the anticipation spent on the wait has not been wasted. Far from it. Being one of my favorite authors of all time, whenever I find out that Terry Pratchett is working on something outside of the Discworld Universe I always become immediately excited. It's because I love to see how he applies his witty observations of the human condition in different contexts. Although I love characters like Sam Vimes, Granny Weatherwax, and the entire staff of the Unseen University, applying that same wit and wisdom to a book centered around modal realism gives an introspective twist to the way we usually perceive the real. It adds a silent commentary that displaces the reader, causing them to unknowingly reconfigure their world view.  It catches them off guard in mid-laugh, leaving them in a position where they say, "HAHAHA....oh...wait...yea...I never thought about it like that." 
Combine this with Stephen Baxter's flawless grasp of the elements of hard Science Fiction, and you get a story that is stacked with multiple dimensions of inquiry, observation, and suggestive scrutiny of our own reality that needs to be read many times over in order to fully appreciate what these two great writers have constructed. 


The Long Earth is the story of "Step Day," a moment in human history whose impact in the novel is bigger than Armstrong taking those first steps onto the desolate surface of the moon. "Step Day" marks the occasion where mankind of "Datum" Earth, with the help of a potato powered "Stepper Device" learned how to step into the multiverse of "East and West" Earths. Instead of extending themselves outward throughout the rest of the solar system, the proverbial press of mankind's boot would now be thrust onto the necks of the worlds of inner space. 

"Step Day" marks the beginning of the end of all we know back on the "Datum," as people across the globe partake in a mass exodus to escape the economic, governmental, and religious perils of their home dimension, among other things.This manifest destiny, however, isn't all it's cracked up to be. As society is slowly crumbling back on Earth Prime, humanity faces  new sets of challenges and evolutionary opponents out on the Long Earth.Yet, as humanity spreads out, someone or something(s) is closing in on humankind's migration throughout the Earths East and West. In an effort to discover just what is happening out there in the Long Earth, it's up to Lobsang, a Tibetan motorcycle repair man who is the world's first soul reincarnated into a sentient computer, and "natural" stepper, Joshua Valiente, to discover what lies ahead.

That's all I'm giving about this novel. You will just have to read it for yourself to discover how truly amazing it is. I will, however, share some of the thoughts The Long Earth began to brew in the deeper quadrants of my brain-parts. 

The Long Earth, besides being one of the most intriguing stories I've ever read, brings up a lot of subtle commentary on the road of Science Fiction itself. We are all aware that Science Fiction usually leads to Science Fact, so it only seems natural for Science Fiction to start exploring multidimensional realities. In the past, when people thought about space travel, they thought about outer-space: the realm beyond the sky where the stars exist. Yet, since we have already tackled that desire, and have now even seen space research become co-opted by private investors, I personally feel that a part of that dream has been tainted. Outer-space travel has now become a privilege of the paying elite, it's no longer a shared human dream. Call me a Utopian, but I always thought space travel should be for everyone. The Long Earth discusses this topic, however, of the idea of outer-space travel being inaccessible. The novel does this by portraying the schemata for the "step device" itself as available on the internet. So everyone can participate in stepping, as long as they can produce a potato and a box. So the idea of "space" travel becomes inverted. When once we looked to the stars, now we look into ourselves and what we know of the place where we supposedly come from, and we realize that this place, as Walt Whitman would say, contains multitudes. Because in the novel do we not only see different versions of our home planet, but we see different interpretations of it. We see how other people have envisioned their realities, and what they would do if they had the chance to create their own, and the consequences of those creations. However, Pratchett and Baxter also include the idea of the "chaos" factor, the thing or things making decisions outside of our realms of knowledge, what we, as humans, are unaware of. So whether it be in the stars or within our own spheres of reality, the question of the unknown is still out there waiting to be discovered, or perhaps, maybe it's out there waiting to discover us.

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