Long Earth, Long War, Long Mars, Long Utopia. Four books. Long books.
I bought them because the name Terry Practchett was attached to the cover. I don’t really know Stephen Baxter, but I think, now that I have read these books. I might. No, I must. If for no other reason than to be happy with having spent the time on these.
‘Long’ was very apt to have in the title. And, now that I have read the ending, Philistine and shallow person that I am, I am not sure I get the point. Oh, yes, there is the land issue. The ability to get to Mars. The haves versus the have-not–well really, the steppers versus the non-steppers. The harm to earth. The ability to leave a harmed earth and move on to another more compatible earth and treat it better. The sideline issue of whether or not God knows about all the parallel earths.
The lack of iron I found to be an interesting sideline. Just as the development of an A.I, Lobsang–yeah, yeah, don’t laugh too hard [a play on Tibetan monk Lobsang Rampa, who turned out to be a man living in Hinchley Wood–a very suburban part of London] as a soda drink dispenser was interesting.
Here’s the deal. I liked the story of Joshua Valienté. I liked the story of Sally Lindsey. Two very relatable characters who had consistency and clarity throughout the books. Here is the AARRAAGGHH! part. There were so many other characters who came and went though the book, with full stories, that I am still unsure what they may have brought to the story, well, that’s not true. I know that many of them brought us to the ending.
The Ending! This is a spoiler, so if you decide to read all four books, stop here, disregard my comments and do not read. You may be less shallow and less a Philistine than me.
Okay, so. you’re still here? The amazing thing is that there is not just one Earth. There is not just one Mars. So I’m guessing each planet in this solar system, at least, has parallel worlds that can be accessed through a ‘stepping’, that is moving from one complete world to another–some very like the Earth, Mars, etc. we already know. Some sort of like and some very, and possibly dangerously, not at all alike.
If you were selling this as High Concept, you might say Infinite Parallel Worlds Accessible to Humans. What would happen to the Powers that Be on this Earth if individual could just leave and find a more compatible world? Establish their own government? Establish values that were consistent with their beliefs? Not be on this world, subject to this worlds’ strictures? What would that mean for the ability to strike out on your own and pioneer a new life? How many people would do that? How far out would you go? What would you be looking for? Something similar or something very different? What if you couldn’t access–stepping was unavailable to you? How would power now be described? Who would protect you once you stepped across? Would we have famine? Would we have war? What would our lives look like if were were not constrained by the size of this earth? How many humans could there be?
The stark reality of this series is that the only humanely habitable planet is the original–Earth.
By the end of the story the issue is what if we are not alone in using this parallel Earth. A force, and I don’t get the sense that we really know the who/what/where of the non-humanoid beings who take up the last section of the last book. But they are taking one Earth, #1,2——– something. And the issue is to stop them from taking them all the parallel Earths.
Yes, they do. Three people, well one human, one the next iteration of human, and an iteration of the A.I. Lobsang, do. They stop them. My science is not that good. My math even worse. But the book ends with the ‘martyerdom’ of the three. We ‘see’ the two humans feel confident they have saved Earth. Really? The A.I. escapes [with permission from the humans, mind] To a satellite in this Earth’s sky. And what does ‘he’ think of? He misses his human life. ‘He had plans to make, places to go. And he smiled.
Cheap shot I say. Oh. Wait. Not the ending? The Long Cosmos. Sigh.