Friday, 14 November 2014

(non-) Hex Picks: Most Recent Book

We skipped our usual first-week book recommendations this month (as I mentioned when I linked to our film picks) but I had this new background all ready to go and I never got the chance to use it. So, following Wednesday's debut of my new green background for discussions and opinions, here's my new book-related background too! I couldn't very well post it without at least mentioning a book, though, so here's the recommendation I would have written if I hadn't sucked and failed last week:

The Long Earth - Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

Yes, I know, I've covered Pratchett twice before in these things, but the theme is my most recent book and, what can I say - I read a lot of Pratchett. What I haven't read a lot of is Stephen Baxter, who co-writes with Pratchett here. “Co-writes” is a slippery word, as it's never clear exactly who has done what - but having witnessed the deterioration of Sir Terry's prose over his last few novels, it's pretty clear that Baxter has handled most of the actual writing. I wish I'd actually read some of his other books, so that I could properly comment on whether he's purposefully emulating Pratchett's style or whether he just writes like that anyway - but either way they seem a perfect match for each other. Whoever's actually responsible, the deft worldbuilding and idiosyncratic characters feel wonderfully assured and familiar - this partnership is a strong one.

The story itself (which I'm only halfway through) deals with the sudden discovery - and universal public access to - an infinite string of parallel worlds. Our main character Joshua is, naturally, an explorer. Things get crazy quickly as he is employed by Lobsang, a supercomputer who may or may not be a reincarnated Tibetan mechanic, to head further out into these unknown Earths than anyone has ever ventured before. Interspersed with this main story (which, honestly, could be going anywhere at this point) are little vignettes depicting how various people from around the world have reacted to this new reality. I actually think these are the real meat of the book - using a “what if” concept to comment on society in the real world. The anger burning beneath Raising Steam (and Science of Discworld IV) is still here, but now it's channelled in a more hopeful direction.

All this adds up to a novel with a strong sci-fi concept hidden behind a deceptively light-hearted tone. Humour with an edge. Y'know, like a Terry Pratchett book. It feels like we got the master back, and I can't thank Stephen Baxter enough.

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