I finished Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter’s The Long Earth last night, and it was, unfortunately, a rather mediocre experience. While I did not really expect this collaboration to hit all the high notes that Sir Terry and Neil Gaiman did in Good Omens, I had hoped for something better.
The novel does score a lot of points for originality in terms of its “multiverse” concept involving many, many parallel Earths, of which ours seems to be the only one that has homo sapiens. While aspects of this concept were intriguing, in general the characters were not. On top of that, the authors seemed to interpret the idea of “show me, don’t tell me” by having much of the story, well, told to the reader via dialogue, often verging more on monologues with one character explaining things to another in long and often multiple paragraphs.
In 20/20 hindsight, I think a better approach would have been to center the story around one of the minor characters, a Madison WI police officer, letting her discover and dig up the facts instead of them being told to us. I suppose that might seem like self-plagiarizing of Pratchett’s Sam Vimes character from some of his Discworld novels; but then they duplicated Good Omen’s use of nuns as sometimes humorous characters and the re-use of the character name “Lobsang”, so why not?
If you enjoy parallel universe stories, this may be worth your time; but if you need great character development and scintillating writing, you may want to pass on it — as much as it pains me to say that about anything by Mr. Pratchett.