The Long Utopia by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
The much-missed Terry Pratchett and iconic Stephen Baxter return for the penultimate volume in their oddly misfiring ‘Long Earth’ quintet. In reviews of the first two I observed that the problem with the series is that the scope is potentially sempiternal and thus it would be improbable that, as great as combining the literary prowess of this pantheistic duo might suggest, it could be done justice. It would take an author dedicated to and skilled in the art of ‘space opera’ – such as Peter F Hamilton – writing thousands more pages to truly make this awesome.
Instead we witness, in a result that is arguably both maudlin in its prescience and prophetic in its conclusion, the beginning of the end of Pratchett’s literary twilight as his dementia took firmer grip. This is evident in the loss of consistent, brilliant, satirical humour that characterised his prosaic wit; it gives way to the weightier philosophy of Baxter’s imagination. Fantastical humour is giving way to precise science fiction.
So it is this eponymous utopian effort stumbles into the aging footsteps of Lobsang, Agnes, Joshua and Sally to show us that the Long Earth with its ‘soft spaces’ isn’t just a sideways step or ‘waltz’. Indeed, a ‘gap in the space-time continuum’ – to draw on a sci-fi parlance – means that Ben has found, at the Old Poulson Place, New Springfield on Earth West 1,217,756 a place where one can step across the galaxy and find an alien-race of silver beetles whose sole purpose is to recreate and spread, gaining mass through the wholesale destruction of planets. The race is on to shove this particular Long Earth out of the eternal chain so the ‘mindless’ beetles cannot infest Long Earth itself. Doing this will involve sacrifice – indeed the whole novel’s theme is one of death, life, and rebirth; a changing of the guard, of the seasons. That comes in the newly invented super-Next, Stan Berg, a self-proclaimed 11-word Messiah, who does his duty in intoning vague, cryptic, exegeses before saving the whole of Long Earth. On his left is the sardonic Sally, on his right is the reborn Lobsang… the Christian undertones are unmistakeable.
As a side narrative – likely written purely by Pratchett given the style - Nelson Azikiwe delves back into Joshua’s past, to Victorian London where he discovers his father, Luis is also a natural stepper. In atypical fashion of current literary representations of Victorian London, this story is portrayed through a romantic tapestry of cigar smoke, stiff British governance, gaslight ambience, intellectual exploration and general colonial arrogance that reaches its xenophobic nadir when one of Luis’ would-be cronies, Hackett, intones:
“it is my intention… to harness a talent that will ensure Britain will continue to be the dominant power in this globe… And who could deny that it would be for the betterment of all mankind?’ … “’The difference, Sir, is we are British… We are a rational nation. We are scientific. We are disciplined.’
As Luis, agape, manages to squeeze out:
Really, indeed. I am not quite sure what the purpose of this look-back is for in the novel, other than to provide pages. Although, it feels better than the rest of the prose: lighter, satirical, humorous, punchy. All the hallmarks of Pratchett. It just has little place in the novel other than giving us Joshua’s familial back story.
Without giving away the action, plot or events of this novel, I found myself skipping faster and faster through it, seeking some of the joy that was in the first novel, or in Pratchett’s ‘Discworld’ or in Baxter’s ‘Destiny’s Children’ – and came away… not disappointed exactly, but with a furrowed brow. I have the last book in front of me and will turn the first page with an alternating heavy heart, given it is likely some of Pratchett’s final words, expectation of a whimpering end to the series, but also hope for something that is a fitting literary tribute to one of the greatest fantasy authors to date.
This The Long Utopia book review was written by travelswithacanadian
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 Utopia?
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 Utopia reader reviews
7/10 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 10,000 Doors of January
Alix E Harrow
In the early 1900s, a young woman embarks on a fantastical journey of self-discovery after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut....
The Unspoken Name
A K Larkwood
A. K. Larkwood's The Unspoken Name is a stunning debut fantasy about an orc priestess turned wizard's assassin.What if you knew how and when you wi...
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...
Unites Arthur, a little boy abandoned many years ago in a grim hospital in northern England, with Esther, a radiantly intelligent young girl who is suffering from cerebral ...
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...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages: