science fiction

The Long War by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

A zeppelin in an orange sky over flat cracked ground with the backlighting-blurred silhouettes of people walking under its shadow, more figures fading into the distance

"[A] silence was falling across all the Long Earth..."

The Long War is set about a decade after the events of The Long Earth, which introduced the world-wide discovery of innumerable pristine parallel Earths, only a 'step' away thanks to simple technology disseminated quickly over the Internet. Pioneer celebrity Joshua Valiente is approached by his old travelling companion and cantankerous frontierswoman, Sally Linsay, with a mission - return to the original Earth (called Datum) and argue for the rights and protection of one of the Long Earth native species, the benevolent natural 'steppers' called trolls. Traveling thousands of worlds with his wife and son, Joshua is pulled back into the machinations of the enigmatic Lobsang and the ubiquitous and innovative Black Corporation. Meanwhile, colonists on distant Earths agitate for revolution, two more sinister species conspire to stifle the human diaspora, and a disaster of another nature entirely lurks on the horizon.
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I was disappointed by this book. I love the world(s!) introduced by the first book in this series, The Long Earth, and further explored here. The world-building alone is worth the read. But most of the characters aren't very personable, even when they're supposed to be. I got through the spotty storytelling okay up until about fifty pages from the end, when a lot of things happened very quickly and not very sensibly. One character is badly maimed (twice in rapid succession, actually) and everyone just sort of ..shrugs and carries on - including the injured character! The ending was also just as much an unresolved cliffhanger as in the first book - I can only hope that in the next book they address the impact of this cliffhanger better than the first one. Still, there were points of humor, the setting is fascinating, and I greatly appreciated the return of Sister Agnes, the strong-minded, motorcycle riding Catholic nun.

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