The Long Mars (Book 3 of The Long Earth) by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter (book review)

June 26, 2015 | By | Reply More

‘The Long Mars’ by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter, the third book of ‘The Long Earth’ cycle, starts with the aftermath of the catastrophe on Datum Earth that concluded book two ‘The Long War’, the Yellowstone super-eruption. The Long Earth being a multitude of alternate Earths devoid of human life. Ours is called Datum Earth to distinguish it from the alternate ones.


It all began on step day 25 years ago, the day when the plans for a simple device called a stepper were published and many people stepped for the first time into the Long Earth. Mankind has now fled Datum Earth completely because the Yellowstone event made it nearly uninhabitable. The protagonists of the first two novels, Joshua Valienté, Lobsang, Sally Linsay and Maggie Kauffman, all do their part in aiding the exodus.

Four years after Yellowstone, Lobsang alerts some of his friends of something new emerging in the midst of humanity, a group of super-intelligent post-humans. Joshua Valienté begins to investigate and soon discovers that he knows one of these so-called Nexts from years ago. He inevitably becomes embroiled in the conflict between humans and the Next and tries to avoid the confrontation which seems inevitable.

After Yellowstone, USLONGCOM has allied with the Chinese. Using their advanced stepping technology, US Navy commander Maggie Kauffman leads her crew in two twains, stepping airships, on an expedition into the farthest reaches of the Long Earth. Much farther than the Chinese expedition we read about in ‘The Long War’. The worlds and creatures they discover are truly astonishing, for example a race of sapient crustaceans. They are accompanied by Douglas Black, who bankrolled this expedition unbeknownst to Maggie and her crew to advance his search for immortality or at least longevity.

Meanwhile, Sally Linsay is called to the Gap to travel with her father Willis Linsay, the inventor of the original stepping device and unfulfilled astronaut Frank Wood to Mars. As her father predicted, the Gap Mars is a Long Mars and so they step from Mars to Mars. They, too, find amazing creatures despite the Long Mars being mostly dead like Datum Mars which, by the way, is not a part of the Long Mars. On their journey, they find what Willis was looking for from the beginning, make a deadly enemy and lose one member of their expedition.

‘The Long Mars’ expands upon the themes and ideas of the previous books and explores new ones. That is to say, many of the questions remain unanswered. Are there more worlds in the solar system which bear sapient life and are they Long Worlds? Will First Person Singular appear again and is it friend or foe? How will the concepts of ‘country’ and ‘nationality’ change? How do societies deal with other sapient creatures not looking human? How will the loss of Datum Earth influence human politics? There are many more questions which will hopefully be answered in the next volume.

The novel is a further extension of the first two books and broadens our view on the Long Earth universe, adds new plotlines, new characters and more sapient races to the mixture we already are familiar with. All in all, it still feels a lot like exposition. Hopefully, that pays off in the next book. Once again: Do not look here for really well developed and developing characters or military SF. But if you want to read a good yarn containing the aforementioned themes and lots of ideas, you cannot go wrong with this book. That the book is written by two authors with very distinctive voices never becomes a problem as the voices of the late Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter blend seamlessly. ‘The Long Utopia’, the fourth book in the series, will be published soon. I am very excited already and looking forward to it.

Sven Scheurer

June 2015

(pub: Doubleday/Transworld Publishers. 359 page hardcover. Price: £18.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-857-52174-3)

check out websites: www.doubleday.com and www.harpercollins.com

Category: Books, Scifi

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