A Step Sideways

Review of the Long Earth series by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

As we reached the last of the Discworld novels we felt bereft: where were the wonderful tales to enjoy on our travels? We need not have worried. A quick trip to the library brought to light another suitable series of fantasy which Pratchett, just before he died, wrote with Sci Fi author Stephen Baxter. Again, we could immerse ourselves in thought-provoking worlds and enjoy a read that enabled deep reflection: ideal material for a journey of conscious evolution.

The basic idea behind this short series of 5 full-length novels is one well suited to those exploring questions of purposeful life, and how it’s lived. Instead of just one Earth there is an apparent infinity of them: The Long Earth, each slightly different to the last due to the effect of minor differences during their creation and evolution. The books describe all manner of similar yet different creatures and strange ‘almost Earths’ where some things are familiar, and others are definitely not! Personally, I found some of these descriptions a bit too dry, not up to Discworld lightness and humour, but the point is made: why is our Earth the way it is? And could there be other versions of it? Even some mathematicians ponder the possibility of parallel words.

Now imagine that we, each of us, could step between these worlds and choose to live on a different one. That is the essence of these intriguing stories: how different individuals step, where they step to and the impact that has on the original ‘Datum’ Earth. Along the way topics such as evolution (of planets and of species), AI, humanoids, space colonisation and relationship with other creatures are explored in, in the context of Long Earth, very believable ways. The main characters are all suitably eccentric and courageous, with back-stories to match, each seeking their own personal fulfilment from the opportunities presented to them by all these worlds.

As with any good story, there are twists and turns aplenty and some wonderful ‘what if?’ questions raised by their decisions and by the potential that becomes available when resources become infinite. We, on this Earth, don’t seem to have a stepping ability, but as we become more conscious of Cosmic Consciousness, might some of the ideas here become possible?

One could read these books to escape, but why waste all the deep and unexpected ideas in these books on that, when they may help us to evolve?

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