This book is the third in the Long Earth series by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter. It’s probably best to read the first two before reading this one, since there are a lot of references to earlier events.
If you come to this book through a love of Terry Pratchett, it’s important to know going in that this is a very different kind of book. It has a few humorous moments, but definitely not the comedy of the Discworld books. This is a decidedly serious book. All the same, I must read this series as part of my obsession with all things Pratchett. I don’t know how it compares with other books by Stephen Baxter, but I suppose I’ll get around to those sooner or later.
Some readers have criticized this series as boring and without much action. It’s true that not a lot happens in this book. It reminds me of early sci-fi novels, such as those by H.G. Wells. Instead of being action-packed with exciting events, this book is more of an exploration of ideas.
The characters encounter all sorts of exotic environments and life forms in the exploration of the Long Earth and the Long Mars. Those chapters are a thought experiment in the types of life that might be possible. This book also explores what might happen if mankind continues to evolve. What will those people be like? How will the less-evolved people react to them?
All in all, I enjoyed the book, though it is a bit of a slow-starter. But there is what seems to me a glaring oversight, and it really bugs me.
************** SPOILER ALERT**************
What really bothered me was the treatment of the “Next.” Everyone was arguing that they are a danger to humanity because of their high intellect. The danger isn’t from their intellect. It’s because they are psychopaths. They have no consciences. The five who murdered civilians in Happy Landings in a coup and murdered naval personnel on the Armstrong had no remorse for their actions. That is plenty of proof that the Next are indeed dangerous. But the human characters just argue about them like they’re harmless puppies that humanity hates just because they’re “different.”
It’s not like Pratchett to overlook something like that. He’s usually much more perceptive. So, I blame his coauthor.