The Long Earth
Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
Harper, Jun 19 2012, $25.99
The Stepping process has enabled mankind to cross into a seemingly infinite number of parallel Earths. None of these alternate earths contain human life while the farther you journey from the earth the weirder the planets become. Very few people have the ability to Step out without assistance; those who can are in demand.
“Gold” fever has foolish people greedily Stepping out; many to their deaths. Meanwhile the TransEarth Institute hires one of those with the rare skill Joshua Valiente, accompanied by Lobsang the AI who insists that in a previous life he was a Tibetan, to steer an airship across the endless Long Earth in order to explore the unknown for economic potential.
This is a fascinating science fiction tale that readers will enjoy though in many ways it reads like a series of anecdotal events. The side effects of Stepping grips the audience as the rules of survival become known by early explorers (and readers) and quick visits to a series of worlds by the protagonists begin to shape what is out there. Though the premise is intriguing and the storyline entertaining, The Long Earth would have been better as a series of short stories starring the early explorers not always surviving their visits to multiple earths.