The Long War by T. Pratchett & S. Baxter

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The Long War is the second book in a trilogy written by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter. The first book was called The Long Earth and it presents the following scenario: a scientist post on the Internet a model, easy enough for a child to put together on his own, for a little device with only one switch.

No one knows what it does, but a lot of children are keen on trying and when they click the switch on the device… they disappear.

Where to? Well, that is the interesting part. They appear on the same spot they where, but on a parallel Earth. It turns out that our planet Earth has replicas of itself to the East and the West. There are no humans in any of the replicas. You can move laterally between this different Earths by stepping from one to the other using the Stepper.

The Earths seem to go on forever, each has evolved differently, in some of them, the Ice Age never ended and everything is covered in ice, in others, the meteorite that destroyed dinosaurs in our version of Earth,  never fell so there are still dinosaurs roaming the land.  Some Earths are covered in water and there is even one Earth that is just vacuum, there is no Earth at all; you jump straight into space. Most of them, however, are fertile, abundant and ready to be colonized.

Of course this presents a lot of questions: how will mankind function now that there is no scarcity any more? Furthermore, there is no need to work either, if you wanted to, you could live out of hunting and gathering from every world. There is more than enough for everyone. Enough food, space, fresh water, petrol, gold, you name it.

There are certain problems, however, some people cannot step at all and are left behind in what is later called Datum Earth, the Earth from which humans departed. This separates families and creates a lot of resentment on those left behind. Stepping makes a lot of people nauseous, so not everyone can step many worlds at a time and the first two worlds to the East and the West of Datum Earth are populated at an enormous speed, thus crushing the dream of a more healthy, less polluted life.   A lot of people just fled the cities, looking for a new way of life, simpler, and also free of governments and taxes, leaving behind a lot of ghost cities.

The premises of the book are so interesting, you cannot stop reading. They deal with the way in which each country (China, U.S., England, Australia etc.) approached this new possibilities. There is humour throughout the book too and interesting characters, like a talking vending machine which claims to be a Tibetan monk reincarnated, a guy that can step naturally, that is, without the aid of a stepper, and singing trolls that keep the balance of the Long Earth.

After the Long Earth comes the Long War, what happened with the Datum and the other Earths many years later, after men had settled all over these worlds and started using the trolls as labour. All of a sudden, the trolls start fleeing no one knows where to…

Time for the Tibetan monk and natural stepper to get back into the thick of things 🙂

Really worth reading, they are not only great entertainment, but they make you reflect about your own humanity and the way you behave to yourself and others, and whether, given the chance of a better, brighter future, you’ll be able to do anything different that what you are already doing.

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