The Long Utopia (The Long Earth Cycle book 4) by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter (book review).

November 27, 2015 | By | Reply More

‘The Long Utopia’ by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter is the fourth book of ‘The Long Earth Cycle’. The Long Earth being a multitude of alternate Earths devoid of human life. Ours is called Datum Earth to distinguish it from the others. It all began on step day 37 years ago, the day when the plans for a simple device called a stepper were published and many people stepped for the first time onto the Long Earth. Mankind has now fled Datum Earth completely because the Yellowstone Event made it nearly uninhabitable and spread out into the Long Earth.


This time around the story is not so much about traveling the Long Earth but rather about exploring new aspects, even the history of it. To celebrate his fiftieth birthday, Joshua Valienté goes on a trip from his home town Reboot, all the way back to Datum Earth. Part of the way, he is accompanied by Nelson Azikiwe, who takes him to an archive in London. Joshua asked him as a kind of birthday present to do some digging into the history of the Valientés and find out more about the father he never knew. Nelson’s investigations led him back to the nineteenth century, when an ancestor of Joshua was recruited for a secret squad of steppers working for the British Crown. This way we learn some things about steppers and why seemingly no one knew about them before step day.

Meanwhile, Lobsang and Agnes try to live a normal life on an Earth far away from the Datum with their adopted son but the peace of normality does not last long for them. They discover irregularities on their Earth, the days seem to get shorter. In the beginning, it is just a feeling Agnes has but, when they start to observe their surroundings, it becomes a certainty. When they learn that there are strange creatures living just a step away, albeit in a strange direction which does not come easy to steppers, they call in Joshua to investigate further.

We meet someone new with Stan Berg, a teen-ager who could be a Next (you remember the super-intelligent post-humans from ‘The Long Mars’?). With his story, we learn more about the Next and their plans and society. He gets invited to join the Next but refuses. All these different threads converge in the end when natural steppers, the Next and Lobsang join forces to render harmless a threat from somewhere else that could destroy the whole Long Earth.

In ‘The Long Utopia’, the story for the first time takes precedence over the exploration of the world despite exploration of new Earths and ideas being at the center of ‘The Long Earth’ series. The novel provides closure to some of the storylines from previous books. The utopia of the title is not a single one. There is the utopia Lobsang is looking for, the utopia humankinds existence in the Long Earth could turn out to be, the utopia the Next try to build for themselves and the utopia the Next want to provide for humankind or dimbulbs as they call them.

The novel explores new themes and ideas in the Long Earth and expands the old ones. It is a further extension of the earlier books and broadens our view on the Long Earth universe, adds new plotlines, a new universe and a new sapient race to the mixture we already are familiar with. Once again: Do not look here for really deep characterisation or a lot of action. But if you want to read a good yarn containing lots of ideas, you cannot go wrong with this book. The very distinctive voices of the two authors never become a problem with the voices of the late Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter blend seamlessly. ‘The Long Cosmos’, the fifth and quite possibly ultimate book in the series, will be published soon. I am very excited already and looking forward to it.

Sven Scheurer

November 2015

(pub: Doubleday/Random House. 360 page hardback. Price: £18.99 (UK), $34.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-857-52176-7)

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Category: Books, Scifi

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