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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 31 July 2014
I have been a Terry Pratchett fan for many years & very much enjoyed his first book with Stephen Baxter "The Long Earth". This is the third in the series.
In this book Sally Linsay meets up with her Father Willis, the inventor of the stepper box, and they head off to Mars. Maggie Kauffman is on her own trip through Long Earth joined by Snowy the Beagle and Joshua is helping Lobsang with some super intelligent humans who have evolved.
This is a very bitty book with the result that I just could not get a grip on the story. Sally's trip to Mars was not particularly interesting. Sally, Willis & Frank head off on their gliders and rush through a series of Long Mars worlds. This allows the authors to give free reign to their imaginations & a series of unusual worlds and creatures are created. There are some interesting interactions between Sally and Willis but not enough to enable this section of the story to hold my attention. Joshua & Maggie's stories are intertwined with Lobsang & the super intelligent children. This has the makings of a very interesting idea but there just isn't enough of a story to it. By putting both of these large concepts in one book neither is allowed to develop fully and produce an interesting and gripping storyline. The result is two half finished stories which I struggled to engage with fully and left me feeling rather disappointed.
Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter are both excellent authors with vivid imaginations and good writing skills.They can write clever and entertaining books both separately and together. This book, however, just didn't work for me. There were some gems of good ideas but they just didn't come to life properly. The characters that we have already met weren't developed further and I never felt that I got an opportunity to get to know anyone new.
This was a disappointing book in a series which showed so much potential at the start.
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on 20 July 2014
I'm a big fan of both pratchett and Baxter and have stuck with this series since it started, but this one left me frustrated and unsatisfied. The humour of the first novel seems to have been abandoned in Earth west 1, the tension of the second fell into the gap and really I'm struggling to find any redeeming points from this third instalment. Despite taking us to earth west 250,000,000 and various joker mars', ironically the plot didn't go anywhere. The idea of super intelligent children is far better realised in baxters time series, poor old lobsang seems to have been an afterthought. If there is a fourth part, I would like to see the seeds sewn here developed into actual threads and some pay off for the hours I lost reading this.
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on 18 August 2014
The third “Long” novel from this collaboration is an improvement on the second effort. The content and style of it seems to be more Baxter than Pratchett – the latter’s hand is clear in the Lobsang episodes but it seems the waning powers of the author have meant Baxter has taken a lead on this latest effort. It is heavier on the science fiction, with lighter touches on brow-breaking philosophy…a subject matter Pratchett indulged in with his last Discworld novel – Raising Steam.
This novel is all about “Evolution”. It takes three main routes post Yellowstone super-caldera: the first a decision for the inaugural Unites States of Step-wise America to head to East 250 million; the second a change for Sally and her dad, Willis, to fly over to Gap Mars and then step a few million Mars East; the third the spasm of evolution that is the “Next” – think ‘Tomorrow People’ or a proper Homo Sapiens if you will. The rest of us all are just dimbulbs, after all.
The first effort is a chance for us to follow the author’s own Star Trek notion. This time Captain Maggie is off with the cat Shi-mi, Mac, and Snowy the Beagle to discover more and more bands of worlds dominated by crustaceans, purple algae, and acid-developed life-forms amongst many other matters. It’s a true voyage of discovery for those who love the whole “Captain Cook” nature of these novels.
The second effort means we follow the unlikeable, dour Sally as she floats off with her Dad and Frank to Gap Mars, then heads East to find a Joker Mars with a civilisation. The arrogance of her father backfires slightly on this trip…they should really have adhered to the Star Trek tenet of “non-interference” but this gives the authors a chance to inject some action into the story whilst inserting their own version of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 monolith.
Both trips are East…clearly the West steps are being saved for later novels.
The final journey is back on Madison 5 and Happy Landings. A group of young people - who were hinted at with Roberta Golding in the previous novel – have emerged as a new homo species with accelerated cerebral cortices. Speaking their own language, understanding everything much faster, yet without experience, they are seeking their own home. The journey here is pretty much X-Men…and humanity’s reaction to a same species/genus ‘threat’. Joshua Valienté steps in and a decision to wipe them out is stopped giving them the chance to head off into the realms of another novel.
This book is all about growth, all about exploration, all about potential. It’s also an improvement on book two as it’s more purposeful, more inventive….more hard science fiction than aimless fantasy. I get the feeling that Baxter took the lead on this one and the rhythm of the story is much better handled, despite the genius of Pratchett. As Mac opined:
“Who would ever have imagined that life even without the power of oxygen was capable of such beauty, such inventiveness of design?”
Indeed. Let’s see more inventiveness on the Long Universe, Mr Baxter and Mr Pratchett….
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on 29 July 2014
I'm kind of at a loss as to what to say about this third book in the triology.
I read the first part and was massively impressed with the concept of the Long Earth...loved the idea of it.
I even loved the characters that TP and SB started to fill the story with.
But I was left ploughing through chapter after chapter just like the airship stepping through earth after earth...constantly moving on, but with pretty much nothing happening. And then, abruptly, part one ended. Oh...was that it? Maybe part two will explain/enhance/improve on things.
So I read part two...and felt exactly the same thing - that the story just constantly felt like it was building up and building up and building up to something big...something to make me go "wow" but then book two ended. And I thought again oh..was that it?
And now I'm a third of the way through book three - and STILL it feels like it's all building to something...all plot points and stories and set pieces building to something big. A slow burn maybe...a very slow burn...
But to be honest, I'm struggling to finish it. I know I will because it's TP and it deserves to be finished. I just wish something would happen...
It's well written, highly descriptive, a great concept...but it just never seems to go anywhere. Never seems to get going.
If the rest of book three continues along similar lines I think I'll call it a day, even if there is a part four and five.
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on 4 July 2014
It follows very much the vein of the previous two books but the repeated concept is beginning to become rather tired (various worlds are travelled through, not much happens other than imagining the alien quality of the world repeat). The voice of Terry Pratchett is also something lacking from this book as, whilst that voice was quite minimal, the humour which occasionally appeared and the hint that Pratchett played a role is definitely not noticeably evident, this may be due to Pratchett's unfortunate medical situation but this does definitely feel that it is a Baxter book.
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on 4 July 2014
Not very impressed. I've read all of TP's novels and I just don't hear his voice and style in this book. It's very sad. The story is moderately interesting but much of it is simply descriptions of various "earths" in a long series of earths.

The use of english is often stilted and there are far too many instances of the same word being used in adjacent sentences, as if the writer had not read through what he had written before starting off again with the same thoughts inhis mond.

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on 13 July 2014
This series simply gets worse as it goes on. I have been a fan of Pratchett's from the start but this series has none of the traits I have come to love - of it didn't have his name in large print on the cover there is no way in which you would associate this with him.

For the first time in my life I have left a Pratchett book unfinished, I simply couldn't take anymore. We can IBT hope this is the end of the series.
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on 13 August 2014
I’m so very disappointed in this third volume of the “Long” series. The idea of a seemingly endless trail of adjacent Earths that could be “stepped into” using simple technology intrigued me and indeed The Long Earth (1) captured my imagination and enthralled me. I did wonder if I’d missed something in the reading of The Long War (2) because there seemed to be undeveloped elements in the plot. I had hoped such issues might have been resolved more satisfactorily in the following book – but alas, no. Although I enjoyed considering some of the different civilisations described in the Long Mars (3), the end of the book took me so much by surprise, I had to double-check to ensure that, in using my Kindle, I hadn’t skipped over a couple of chapters by mistake. I am a great fan of Terry Pratchett and always look forward to reading his works, but regretfully, couldn’t recommend this one to other readers.
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on 27 June 2015
As the third book in the Long Earth series, The Long Mars develops what has happened before and continues its onward plotline. By Book Three we’re now at the point where the series has expanded from ‘Datum Earth’ to millions of Earths. As before, much of the plot derives from the ensuing human politics, as well as the physical calamities, that have come to fruition as a consequence.

The cliffhanger ending of The Long War is resolved immediately at the beginning of The Long Mars. The start of the book deals with the clearance of people from North America as a consequence of the Yellowstone super-volcanic eruption. The result of this is the partial abandonment of Earth and the redistribution of the Earth’s population as the Datum Earth gets colder winters and climate change.

The hook this time is that, unlike the previous books which were mainly set on a myriad of alternate Earths, we see humans explore our nearest planetary neighbour. The Mars aspect of the plot involves Sally Linsay, daughter of Willis, the inventor who created the machine to allow ‘stepping’ (the ability to travel East or West between parallel worlds), who is requested by her estranged father to travel with him and an ex-astronaut, Frank Wood, to alternate Mars-es, though the reason for doing so is not entirely clear until towards the end of the novel. Travelling by glider and multiple-stepping, they encounter red, green and blue Mars-es, and the remains of dead and lost civilisations without any real meeting with intelligent life, at least at first.

One of the great fun things about doing this with a seemingly-unlimited number of other planets is that you can create Mars in a variety of forms, and it is clear that the author-collaborators have enjoyed creating Mars-es that are Bonestell-ean, red, green, blue, inhabited or isolated.

Though the title of the novel is The Long Mars, it must be said that not all of the book is focused upon the Red Planet. Of the plot points on Earth that develop, Commander Maggie Kauffman continues the Star Trek-like continuation of her journey. Now in two new super-dirigibles, Maggie and her US Navy team continue the journey step-ward from Earth into the thousands of millions. She encounters worlds of purple algae, strange alien lifeforms and the return of the ‘beagle’ species first encountered in The Long War. Along the way we have shipboard situations to deal with, such as political shenanigans, an animosity between officers and crews and a strained relationship between different cultures and ideologies. There’s also the issue of a nuclear device similar to the one set off in Madison on Datum Earth a couple of books back.

Joshua Valiente, hero of ‘Step Day’, is still present, though generally I felt was of lesser importance this time around, except for certain key interventions.

Throughout we have the overseeing eye of Lobsang, the AI whose purpose, with the ex-nun Agnes, seems to be to observe and advise, though there are still hints of a larger and deeper covert operation through the creepy presence of entrepreneur Douglas Black.

One of the newer developments is something that was hinted at in earlier novels – that of the Next, the evolution of humans into the next stage of human development. Incredibly quick, both in terms of intelligence and in their speaking, their disdainful and superior attitude causes some issues for Maggie and her crew before a major plot revelation and an action that involves Joshua’s intervention. This is an element that is clearly going to run in future novels, but there are aspects here that will be recognisable to anyone who has read John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos.

As before in this series, anybody expecting Discworld humour will be very disappointed. In fact, the general tone of these books are rather sombre, or, at best, elegiac. What we’re here for is the travelogue experience, though interestingly there are times when the stepping becomes so rapid as to be almost meaningless. At Earth West 250 000 000, the US Navy dirigibles seem to be less about the wonder and more about the difficult drudgery of travel:

“The world itself turned out to be unprepossessing, barren, ordinary, but at least you could walk around it with a facemask, walk around a little.”

The travel, in the end, becomes less about the joy of exploration and more about surviving the journey:

“And as the journey wore on, and the Earths became ever more exotic and challenging, Maggie sometimes felt as if it was only her own willpower that held the mission together.”

To lighten things a little, the accumulated knowledge of the two collaborators has led to some nice little sf-nal references for those who want to notice. I did like the little genre references throughout that were nice little nods to other writers. They’re not essential to the plot, but for those who know other works they’re fun. I’m sure that there were some that I missed, but the ones I particularly noticed were references to sand-worm-like creatures a la Dune, Red Dwarf, Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001 series (“You will not go there.”) and the rock snakes of the Thunderbirds Are Go! movie from 1968. (I know that Stephen, like me, is a big fan, so it’s not that surprising.)

On the downside, the characters can still come across as rather flimsy at times, though this is as a result of having to compromise between plot and pace. I did feel that not all characters are as visible as I’d expected – very little troll-action this time around, for example – but the focus was clearly elsewhere this time around. Lastly, I did feel that towards the end the plot seemed to move rather too easily to an equally obvious conclusion, although this does leave an ending that means that you have to pick up the next book (The Long Utopia) to discover what will happen.

On balance, The Long Mars is a step or two forward (ha!) from The Long War. The plot holds together better this time around, events seem a little less ramshackle and by the cliffhanger climax there was a genuine desire to read what happens next. The Long Mars is not the place to start this series, but those who have enjoyed the books so far will continue to find much to appreciate here.
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on 4 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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