The Long War by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
The problem with creating a science fiction "opportunity" such as the one The Long Earth presents is that you need a space opera to do it justice. When The Long Earth came out with its Pratchett notion of a potato inspired device (quickly forgotten in this latest because it was a tad too ridiculous) that gave rise to an infinite series of Earths for humanity to expand into, it created a vast series of options for the authors to explore. So vast, in fact, they've fallen short with this latest, directionless effort. All it has done, in truth, is show the brilliance of the idea (though rehashed somewhat - see Greg Bear's 'Eon') and the incapacity of the authors to deal with it. The reality is the concept needs Peter F Hamilton to do it justice. The vastness of the new world of Datum East/West requires more words than these authors are prepared to throw at it and this sequel flounders in a mire of nothingness.
Part of the problem is Joshua Valienté's weary inclusion - it's almost as though the character isn't interested; part of the problem is the character of Sally - she's intensely dislikeable; part of the problem is that Lobsang's not in it enough; the whole of the problem is nothing gets the detail it deserves. We've too many threads fighting for four hundred pages of large print space and no one's a winner. As a reader I want to investigate more about the culture of Trolls, of Kobolds, of Beagles; I want a thorough story following Capt. Maggie on her personal starship Enterprise with the Cat; I need Joshua to be kicked in the backside to show some enthusiasm; I want the gifted Roberta and her Chinese expedition to get ten times the airtime. The whole East twenty million voyage is begging for a juicy hook to yank the reader. The disappearance of the Trolls (yet they are too easy to find) is casually handled; the chewing off of Joshua's appendage unexplained; the "war" that is the title is merely an apologetic after-note of vapid inconsequentialness scrawled in the final chapters. I've seen more fight in the Norse Sagas on Valhalla than I saw in this book.
I was disappointed. The concept of stepping into an alternative reality is handled better by the likes of S. M. Stirling. He devotes a trilogy to just one "step" and you can see why. The creation of four million worlds needs four million pages, in truth. Pratchett and Baxter have created something too big to handle - and this is coming from two of the very best authors out there. I've read nearly everything these two authors have ever produced. They have all the kudos they deserve for they are very, very good at what they do. But... it's possible for even the very best to produce a poor book... and this might just well be a nadir for them. I hope the next is better. In summary... The Long Earth was great; The Long War... disappointing.
There is a fundamental fear when reviewing a book by a famous author, especially if said author is someone you have previously lavished praise upon. Questions are asked: Were you wrong before? Has the author’s talent disappeared? Had it ever existed? It is a tricky proposition, and I feel a certain measure of responsibility to process my thoughts carefully when stepping into this territory. How much influence I have is a matter for debate, but the answer is somewhat immaterial; regardless of how much influence I have or do not have, I need to be careful in how I treat authors.
So when I say that ‘The Long War’ by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter does not live up to the combined excellence of both authors (or, realistically, even one), I do so very hesitantly and with the hope that it will not always be the case.
The Long War is the second book in the series between collaborators Pratchett and Baxter, and suffers, I believe, from a desire to set up a world in which the authors will be able to continue writing in. The cache that is contained within even one of their names is enough to secure a successful completion to the series, but this book definitely hurts the level of excitement I’ll be hoarding next year when we expect to see the third book in the series.
This book appears, on the surface, to contain very little input by Terry Pratchett. I consider myself a relatively decent judge of Pratchett’s work, and feel that it is very ‘unlike’ his writing. The imagination and morale-compass that backs this book is very evidently Pratchett’s (and presumably also Baxter’s) but it feels as if his ability to pour his own creative genius into the formation of this book was restricted somehow.
Instead of a story which pulls the reader along page by page, The Long War is a mish-mash of stories haphazardly joined together, like a ransom note drafted by a high school dropout: each part is inherently interesting, but its execution fails to capture the imagination. The world of the Long Earth is intrinsically fascinating, and the concepts and morality upon which these books will hinge are brilliant and true – like much of Pratchett’s work they provide a mirror to humanity which forces the reader to examine their beliefs, to their own benefit. The manner in which the pieces – morality, imagination, conceptual design, literary talent – are combined, however, is rushed at best, mediocre at worst.
No part of this story is well fleshed out, while being so close it is continually tantalising, right up until the conclusion of this part of the story. There are beautiful scenes – the final one comes to mind as a perfect example of great storytelling – but there are also scenes which shift perspective with no perceptible notification and others which feel like documentary-style news pieces dropped into the middle of a movie. There is an overall sense of discordant storytelling which leaves the reader feeling disjointed and unfulfilled.
Many will still enjoy this book, extracting their own points in favour, while struggling with an overall disappointment. Characters that we love return but are unfulfilled, and concepts that once stretched the imagination fail to grow, stagnating as the authors return over and over to the same now-tired ideas. I don’t suggest skipping this book, and I even suggest buying it (preferably on special) so that you don’t miss out on what parts of the story this book does move forward. However I do so with a warning; this isn’t the Pratchett or Baxter you wanted.
Joshua S Hill, 6/10
All reviews for: Long Earth
The Long Earth
Long Earth #1
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 in the trees. Where have the m...
The Long War
Long Earth #2
A generation after the events of The Long Earth, mankind has spread across the new worlds opened up by Stepping. Where Joshua and Lobsang once pioneered, now fleets of airs...
The Long Mars
Long Earth #3
2040-2045: In the years after the cataclysmic Yellowstone eruption there is massive economic dislocation as populations flee Datum Earth to myriad Long Earth worlds. Sally,...
The Long Utopia
Long Earth #4
2045-2059. After the cataclysmic upheavals of Step Day and the Yellowstone eruption humanity is spreading further into the Long Earth, and society, on a battered Datum Eart...
Have you read The Long War?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
The Long War reader reviews
5.5/10 from 1 reviews
There are currently no reader reviews for this book. Why not be the first?
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a review on this book, it really makes a difference and helps readers to find their perfect book.
More recommended reading in this genre
The Weirdstone of Brisingamen
When Colin and Susan are pursued by eerie creatures across Alderley Edge, they are saved by the Wizard. He takes them into the caves of Fundindelve, where he watches over t...
The Dark is Rising Sequence
On holiday in Cornwall, the three Drew children discover an ancient map in the attic of the house that they are staying in. They know immediately that it is special. It is ...
Three Hearts and Three Lions
The gathering forces of the Dark Powers threaten the world of man. The legions of Faery, aided by trolls, demons and the Wild Hunt itself, are poised to overthrow the Realm...
His name is West. Her name is Cally. They speak different languages and come from different countries thousands of miles apart, but they do not know that. What they do know...
The Abhorsen Chronicles
Who will guard the living when the dead arise? Sabriel is sent as a child across the Wall to the safety of a school in Ancelstierre. Away from magic; away from the Dead. Af...
The Chrestomanci Series
Diana Wynne Jones
Orphans Eric Chant (nicknamed Cat) and his sister Gwendolen, a gifted witch, are whisked away to live in a castle with Chrestromanci, a much-revered man of magic, wealth an...
It has lain lost and forgotten for fifteen hundred years in the ancient heartland of England – a scrap of glass and metal melded by fierce fire. It is the lost core o...
Charlie Keeper has been forced from her home by a bloodthirsty and terrifying stranger. But in escaping she discovers her house holds the gateway to the Realm of Bellania -...
The Tragedy Paper
Every year at an exclusive private boarding school in New York state, the graduating students uphold an old tradition – they must swear an oath of secrecy and leave b...
The Very Best of Charles de Lint
Charles de Lint
Charles de Lint, a fantasy author who has left the same mark on the genre of myth and legend much as the likes of Sir Thomas Malory, Christian Anderson, Grimm, who has foun...
The Testament of Tall Eagle
John R Fultz
A young warrior's vision-quest unveils an alien city full of magic and mystery. As a tribal rift threatens to destroy Tall Eagle's people, night-crawling devils sta...
Out of Oz
The marvellous land of Oz is knotted with social unrest: The Emerald City is mounting an invasion of Munchkinland, Glinda is under house arrest, and the Cowardly Lion is on...
Alif the Unseen
G Willow Wilson
He calls himself Alif - few people know his real name - a young man born in a Middle Eastern city that straddles the ancient and modern worlds. When Alif meets the aristocr...
After an inexplicable catastrophe on Earth, John Bridgeman is left to scrap out a solitary existence, surrounded by bodies and haunted by the girlfriend he cannot allow to ...
R.H. Ragona's Circus of Magic is the greatest circus of Ellada. Nestled among the glowing blue Penglass - remnants of a mysterious civilisation long gone - are wonders ...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages:
- Recommended historical fantasy / alternate history books/series
- Recommended parallel universe / Alternate reality books
Best of 2016
A small group of commuters and tube workers witness a fiery apocalypse overtaking London. They make their escape through a service tunnel. Reaching a door they step through......
Paternus: Rise of Gods
Even myths have legends. And not all legends are myth. When a local hospital is attacked by strange and frightening men, Fiona Patterson and Zeke Prisco save a catatonic old m...
It is for the entities known as Sleepwalkers to cross the doors between dreams, and hunt the nightmares that haunt sleeping minds. Theirs is a world of impossible vistas, wher...
Books of the Month
A selection of books - old and new alike - that were a joy to read.
Paris was supposed to save Hallie. Now... well, let’s just say Paris has other ideas. There’s a strange woman called The Chronometrist who will not leave her alone. Garbled warnings from bizarre creatures keep her up at night. And there’s a time portal in the keg room of the bar where she works. Soon, Hallie is tumbling through...
A corrupted city. A dark dream of power. Luke is a prisoner, condemned for a murder he didn’t commit. Abi is a fugitive, desperate to free him before magic breaks his...
The Fifth Empire of Man
Rob J Hayes
The Pirate Isles are united under Drake Morrass’ flag, but the war has only just begun. There’s still a long way to go before he’s able to call himself Ki...
Ian C Esslemont
After the disappointments of Li Heng, Dancer and Kellanved wash up on a small insignificant island named Malaz. Immediately, of course, Kellanved plans to take it over. To ...
Age of Swords
Michael J Sullivan
Raithe, the God Killer, may have started the rebellion by killing a Fhrey, but long-standing enmities dividing the Rhunes make it all but impossible to unite against the co...
A Time of Dread
The Ben-Elim, a race of warrior angels, once vanquished a mighty demon horde. Now they rule the Banished lands. But their dominion is brutally enforced and their ancient en...
The Last Dog on Earth
Adrian J Walker
Every dog has its day... And for Lineker, a happy go lucky mongrel from Peckham, the day the world ends is his: finally a chance to prove to his owner just how loyal he can...