The Long Earth - Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter

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How are you doing? 
This is a special day: I’m publishing my first review in English! Hope you will cope with  my errors and tell me what they are so that I'll be able to better myself.


The Long Earth


by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter







For those who don’t know me, I’m from Italy and here in my country both these authors are quite unknown. And that’s a pity, just talking about Pratchett (the one that I know more), he is a genius and he was knighted for literary merits from the Queen herself!
So I’m quite sad… and mad… that he is unknown in my country.
The novel that I’ll be reviewing isn’t a Discworld one, his well-known serie, instead it’s a Sci-Fi one.


Plot:

For what do you use potatoes?
They’re important for Mac Donald’s and for the Irish but they’re also part of the “stepper box” a device which helps you reach new Earths.
In this novel we have a quite common sci-fi theme: parallel worlds. But the development of the plot and the style in which it’s written makes the novel really interesting to read.

In this world where Willis Linsay just released the diagram to create the stepper box there are some individuals that can step without the box. Some already knew it from all their life others discover it on the Step Day. The discovery of this new worlds, going on at what it seems an indefinite number of times in two directions arbitrarily called West and East, brings to a new pioneering era.
The new earths have been called Long Earths. Gold miners and searchers go in this parallel worlds where, in the past, there was the gold rush on the Datum Earth, the one that we inhabit. In order to try to find and scoop up some of this material, big societies decide to explore the worlds and establish bases for advanced parties, the overpopulation doesn’t exist anymore, groups and cities go on the Long Earths colonizing them. Because incredibly there aren’t any other humans living in this worlds.

“ ‘But after more than two thousand excavations in contiguous Earths, by Black Corporation-funded expeditions and others, we never found any sign of the development of nascent humanity beyond those very early bones, some deformed, some mauled by animals, most of them very small. There was nothing past the australopithecines, the Lucies. The cradles of mankind were empty.
There are still workers out there, still searching, and until last year I was still running the program. But in the end the emptiness of the Long Earth – empty of humanity at least – disturbed me so much that I resigned.”

In this background we found Joshua Valienté, a natural stepper, that is hired from a multinational to explore the Long Earths.
His job would be to control and help a sixth generation computer that proved being human. The machine is called Lobsang and has many forms and multi forms sub-unities (humans, aquatics and so on) and travels the Long Earths on an airship powered by solar energy and, thanks to him, we have some of the most hilarious passages in the book.

“ ‘I have studied the rules of sparring for an adequate time,’ said Lobsang, standing up. ‘Two millionths of a second, to be precise. Sorry, did that sound smug?’
Joshua sighed. ‘Actually, it sounded like exaggeration for humorous effect.’
‘Good!’ said Lobsang. ‘That’s
 exactly what I intended.’
‘That sounds smug.’”


Travelling across the Long Earths Joshua and Lobsang discover that humans aren’t the only intelligent specie around.
They even found some small intelligent dinosaurs that build shacks, the world where this specie lives haven’t seen the big metheor that has destroyed them. Moreover they meet also other beings and, since their strange appearance, the two explorers start calling them with fantasy folk names: we have elves, trolls and cobolds at example. All of this species are able to step from one world to another without problems and they are escaping away from West earths toward the Datum, no one knows why though.
Really interesting and awesome the evolution that the two writers have thought for this folks:

“Joshua slumped. ‘I don’t believe it. What just happened?’
Lobsang sounded exhilarated. ‘Evolution, Joshua. Evolution just happened. All uprights humanoids have trouble giving birth. You know that, and your mother learned it the hard way. As we evolved, the female pelvis shrank to allow for bipedalism, but at the same time the baby’s brain grew bigger – which is why we are born so helpless. We emerge with a lot of growing to do before we’re independent.
But it appears that in this species the problem of the pelvis has been sidestepped. Literally.’ He laughed gently. ‘Here, the baby isn’t born through the birth canal. It steps out of the womb, Joshua. Placenta, umbilical and all, I imagine. It makes sense. An ability to step must shape all aspects of a creature’s life ways, if you give evolution time to exploit it. And if you don’t have to go all the trouble of being born, your brain can get as big as you like.’”

The books ends with the discovery of what all the fairyfolks are escaping from.
But I’m not saying what it is =P


Setting:

The novel takes place on the Earth, the Earth and the Earth and so on. The juicy bit is that every Earth is different from the other, small changes at first, mainly in the weather, but after the thousand Earth the changes are more remarkable: ice ages, Water Earths, Earths without moons and Earths without Earths because a meteor destroyed it.
One newsworthy feature is that in some nodes the stepping doesn’t bring you on the next Earth but far, far away. Those nodes are really rare and hard to find. Thanks to those nodes Happy Landings exist, it’s a city where humans and trolls live together and it’s really near to some nodes and so it’s quite easy to find.
Characters:
Joshua Valiente, a boy from Madison, Wisconsin, without parents and living in an orphanage run by nuns.
A peculiar boy, a natural stepper that discovered his ability only on Step Day.
Lobsang. A machine. The best character ever. Do you know why?

 “She smiled deprecatingly.‘Lobsang found your mailbox code.’
‘And who is Lobsang?’
‘Me,’ said the drinks machine.
‘You’re a drinks machine,’ said Joshua.
‘You are wrong in your surmise, although I could produce the drink of your choice within seconds.’
‘But you’ve got Coca-Cola written on you!’
‘Do forgive me my sense of humour. Incidentally, if you had hazarded a dollar in the hope of soda-based refreshment I would definitely have returned it. Or provided the soda.’
Joshua struggled to make sense of this encounter. ‘Lobsang who?’
‘I have no surname. In old Tibet, only aristocrats and Living Buddhas had surnames, Joshua. I have no such pretensions.’
‘Are you a computer?’
‘Why do you ask?’
‘Because I’m damn sure there isn’t a human being in there, and besides, you talk funny.’
‘Mr Valienté, I am more articulate and better spoken than anybody you know, and indeed I am not inside the drinks machine. Well, not wholly, that is.’
‘Stop teasing the man, Lobsang,’ said Selena, turning to Joshua. ‘Mr Valienté, I know you were …elsewhere, when the world first heard about Lobsang. He is unique. He is a computer, physically, but he used to be— how can I put this? — a Tibetan motorcycle repairman.’
‘So how did he get from Tibet to the inside of a drinks machine?’
‘That is a long story, Mr Valienté…’
If Joshua hadn’t been away so long he’d have known all about Lobsang. He was the first machine to successfully convince a court that he was a human being.
‘Of course,’ Selena said, ‘other sixth-generation machines had tried it before. Provided they stay in the next room and talk to you via a speaker they can sound at least as human as some of the lunkheads you see around, but that proves nothing in the eyes of the law. But Lobsang doesn’t claim to be a thinking machine. He didn’t claim rights on that basis. He said he was a dead Tibetan.
‘Well, Joshua, he had them by the shorts. Reincarnation is still a cornerstone of world faith; and Lobsang simply said that he had reincarnated as a computer program.’”


Conclusion:

It doesn’t matter if you like or not the science fiction this is book enjoyable for anybody.
The way it’s written, ironically, even for important matters such as overpopulation gives a nice and pleasant taste to the book.
Really interesting the parts about alternative evolution and scientific theories.
Maybe a little slow in the central part, mostly because the Earths they’re travelling through are similar to each other, but thanks to some little details it’s easy going past these points.
I sincerely advice the reading of this book, hope you liked my review

 



Aratak

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