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Stephen Baxter

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The Long Cosmos

The Long Cosmos

Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter

18th August 2016

The final novel with Terry Pratchett's name on the cover, this is also the fifth and final story in the Long Earth series. The other author, Stephen Baxter, explains in the introduction that the pair wrote the book several years ago and so Baxter has only had to shepherd it through the publishing process by himself.

Joshua, the original step-day explorer, is heading off on one final time expedition into the many parallel worlds that he discovered, and the whole of the Long Earth is reacting to a strange message from the skies.

It's a great conclusion to a series which looking back on my notes I've enjoyed very much. The story does well to build upon and wrap up a number of the story points raised in the earlier novels without feeling like everything is coming to an end. The narrative is full of the wit and humorous references that are expected in a Pratchett story, and it certainly serves as a fitting end to his fantastic literary output.

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The Long Utopia

The Long Utopia

Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter

27th June 2015

The fourth (and possibly final) book in Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter's Long Earth series gripped me in a way that the first four failed to. In fact, I'd almost given up on reading the series after the third book, but given recent events wanted to grab the final pages of Pratchett, and was pleasantly surprised.

The story follows the main characters from previous books as they are aging and (in some cases) settling down after a life of adventure, until they discover something uncomfortably wrong with one of the worlds.

There's plenty to follow up from events of previous books, and I particularly enjoyed the different take on one aspect. The plot actually felt linear and fairly self contained, which I appreciated, although I thought that there was a lot of set up first before getting to the most engaging chapters.

There are touches of humour that I hadn't noticed as much in previous novels - places where (what I assume is) Pratchett's wit shines through the cracks - especially in the dialogue between characters, and this I particularly enjoyed.

I felt that this book rounded things off well (though I have read on one website that there is a fifth book coming - but this may have been an error), and left things in a fit state to leave the series. It's been a mixed bag throughout, but I definitely enjoyed this epic conclusion.

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The Long Mars

The Long Mars

Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter

4th July 2014

The third entry in Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter's 'Long' series is pretty similar to the first two - the narrative is split into quite distinct chapters leaping around between a group of main characters each on an unrelated adventure.

I felt though that the story didn't really live up to my expectations. There was a significant conclusion to the previous book that I had felt would become the focus this time, but although it sticks in the background, it felt like the repercussions had mostly been brushed aside in favour of a more 'sci-fi' plot that felt less engaging to me, and a little more like an ethical manifesto. There are two other areas of the story that felt a lot like repetition of a theme that's used throughout the first two books.

Having said that, once I had got through the first few chapters, I was surprised by how easily readable I found the book and was disappointed each day when the end of my commute meant I had to put the book away. Having glanced back now at my reviews of the previous books in the series I realise that I may have been misremembering as I seem to have felt similarly then.

Ultimately though it's a book about the plot, exploring scientific concepts of parallel worlds and some moral and ethical questions, and it felt it suffered from not making the characters more engaging. I also felt that the wittiness had dropped off in this book, making it a more serious read despite the continuation of classic movie references.

So overall, it's worth reading if you enjoyed the first two books, but I don't think it serves as a particularly enticing entry point to the series. It feels like it might be the final book, and if not I'd probably think twice a about whether I want to continue.

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The Long War

The Long War

Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter

6th July 2013

The sequel to the authors' The Long Earth sees the same group of characters set out on a variety of quests throughout a landscape of parallel worlds as various factions emerge.

My memories of reading the previous novel only twelve months ago are a little patchy, but I found this didn't matter and this sequel could probably be read on its own. The basic premise is explained quickly and straightforwardly, although some of the character relationships might not be so obvious.

It's much solider science fiction than usually emerges from the pen (or dictation software) of Terry Pratchett, but the typical style of wit and amusing references from his other works is clearly present. It's not the toughest of science fiction to read and would be very approachable for a reader who does not frequent the genre.

The beginning and end made for addictive reading and, despite a slow middle section that reminded me of the dragging sections in the first book, I really enjoyed it.

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The Long Earth

The Long Earth

Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter

29th June 2012

The Long Earth is the first collaboration in a possible series between Pratchett and Baxter for which the idea has been brewing for some time. In the early twenty-first century the design for a 'stepper' is released to the public, enabling almost anyone to 'step' between a possibly infinite number of parallel Earths, and triggering a migration much likened to that of early American settlers.

I'm coming to this book having not read any of Stephen Baxter's previous works, but I have been reading Terry Pratchett for seven years. This is quite different from Pratchett's Discworld series.

The Long Earth is a serious science fiction novel, yet it maintains much of the lightness common to Pratchett's work and none of the sometimes dreary dullness of hard-core SF. The worlds and events are clearly thought through thoroughly and intended to depict a realistic set of consequences to such a discovery. This provides a stark believability to the text which enables the narrative to flow. There are also a number of points where humour does poke its head through.

One issue with the story is the amount of time it takes to get going. While events kick off fairly quickly at the beginning, there are a lot of seemingly disconnected scenes and characters, and it's not until quite late on that we get a distinct sense of plot and where this particular story is taking us.

Overall it makes for an interesting read, and is filled with literary and movie references of which I'm sure I barely noticed a few. I didn't find it as entertaining as Discworld, but I'm sure that if there comes a sequel, I'll be in line to read it.

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