I’ve enjoyed this intriguing series so far – read my review of the first book, The Long Earth here. The premise is that humanity has learnt to step across to parallel Earths that exist in an infinite series of universes that stretch away from Datum Earth. Would this third adventure be as engrossing?
The Long Earth is in chaos. The cataclysmic aftermath of the Yellowstone eruption is shutting civilization down. As populations flee to the relative safety of stepwise Earths, Sally Linsay, Joshua Valienté and Lobsang do what they can to assist in the perilous clean-up. But Joshua is called to a crisis close to home: a newly emergent breed of young, super-bright post-humans threatens the status quo of ‘normal’ human society and violent confrontation seems inevitable. And now Sally has been contacted by her long-vanished father, Willis Linsay – the maverick inventor of the original Stepper device. His is planning a fantastic voyage and wants her to join him, but what is his true motivation?
If you haven’t yet encountered The Long Earth series, my advice is not to start with this book, which plunges you right into the Yellowstone eruption, with only the sketchiest introduction to the main characters. It took me several pages to get back into the groove, and I’ve read the previous two books fairly recently.
This whole series has an old-fashioned feel – lighter on indepth characterisation and focussing more on the consequences and descriptions of the varying landscapes and exotic lifeforms. Because the premise is so fascinating and well written, I don’t find this as annoying as I usually do. Of course it doesn’t hurt that both authors are experienced and extremely talented.
The devastating consequences of the Yellowstone eruption around the world makes for riveting reading, but for me, the highlight of this book is the exploration of Mars. There are universes where Earth has been wiped out and in the nearest one to Datum Earth, a space station has been built in readiness for exploring Mars. Because in this universe, Mars is not the sterile, dead planet we know. This particular Mars has an atmosphere, water and vegetation. This particular Mars is – literally – a stepping-off point to explore the other versions of the Red Planet. I found this sub-plot utterly engrossing, packed with wonderful imaginative touches and an enjoyably surprising conclusion.
Another main thread is the rise of The Next – a group of super-intelligent children who are descended from the inhabitants of Happy Landings. This poses all sorts of major moral questions, which is often what really good science fiction excels at. It provides us with an arena where we can explore and debate likely consequences and how society should respond – both for good and ill.
If you have ever seriously considered how humanity impacts upon our home planet, then go looking for the first book in this quality series.