Wednesday, July 2, 2014

We Look Like Bad Guys. INCOMPETENT Bad Guys!

So, The Long Earth turned into a bad Star Trek episode.

A bad Stark Trek: The Animated Series episode.

By the way: HERE BE SPOILERS. Stop reading now unless you don’t want to finish reading the book.

Which I did – and which I recommend, but only for study purposes if you’re a writer trying to deconstruct a genre.

The ending, sentient, symbiotic yet entirely innocently menacing Blob Monster aside, is acceptable. But the philosophical discussions of having unlimited Earths to explore and exploit are rather tepid and unimaginative, and The Long Earth’s characters are beyond cardboard-cutout dull.

Even the villains and their motivations are dull – or at best, incoherent. Where Pratchett and Baxter could have painted a much more menacing menace than the wimpy, pseudo-whatever (is he a religious zealot? I don’t know. There are only enough hints to make me assume, but not near enough detail to make me even know why he decides to nuke Madison, Wisconsin, in reaction to the book’s phenomena) Brian Crowley. (Is that really his name? I don’t care enough about him to verify.)

Same can be said of Joshua Valiente and Sally Whatshername, the paleo chick he connects with just before Lobsang and company find and become voluntarily absorbed by the Blob Monster. Yes, that sets up something neato nifty for the next book, but part of me wishes they’d spent more time with the neato nifty in this book.

And then in the acknowledgements the authors profusely thank someone in Wisconsin for taking them on what appears to be a complicated tour of Madison so they can get to know the city as a setting for the novel – and then share nothing more about the city than what could have been gleaned from a few minutes’ perusal of Wikipedia.

This book is weak sauce, through and through.

I’ve said this before about the differences between fantasy and science fiction: Sci-fi is the realm of ideas, while fantasy is the realm of characters reacting to ideas. I’ve never read a book as pronounced in this effect, but of course I’ve never read a sci-fi book co-authored by Terry Pratchett before, so I’ve never had such a vast wad of material with which to make comparisons. I certainly prefer the character-driven pursuit of ideas that Terry Pratchett has perfected in his fantasy novels. And I’m pretty sure I can pass on the rest of the books in this series.

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