The Long Mars
2040-2045: In the years after the cataclysmic Yellowstone eruption there is massive economic dislocation as populations flee Datum Earth to myriad Long Earth worlds. Sally, Joshua, and Lobsang are all involved in this perilous work when, out of the blue, Sally is contacted by her long-vanished father and inventor of the original Stepper device, Willis Linsay. He tells her he is planning a fantastic voyage across the Long Mars and wants her to accompany him. But Sally soon learns that Willis has ulterior motives ...
Meanwhile U. S. Navy commander Maggie Kauffman has embarked on an incredible journey of her own, leading an expedition to the outer limits of the far Long Earth.
For Joshua, the crisis he faces is much closer to home. He becomes embroiled in the plight of the Next: the super-bright post-humans who are beginning to emerge from their 'long childhood' in the community called Happy Landings, located deep in the Long Earth. Ignorance and fear are causing 'normal' human society to turn against the Next - and a dramatic showdown seems inevitable.
Reviewed on 4th July 2014
The third entry in Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter's 'Long' series is pretty similar to the first two - the narrative is split into quite distinct chapters leaping around between a group of main characters each on an unrelated adventure.
I felt though that the story didn't really live up to my expectations. There was a significant conclusion to the previous book that I had felt would become the focus this time, but although it sticks in the background, it felt like the repercussions had mostly been brushed aside in favour of a more 'sci-fi' plot that felt less engaging to me, and a little more like an ethical manifesto. There are two other areas of the story that felt a lot like repetition of a theme that's used throughout the first two books.
Having said that, once I had got through the first few chapters, I was surprised by how easily readable I found the book and was disappointed each day when the end of my commute meant I had to put the book away. Having glanced back now at my reviews of the previous books in the series I realise that I may have been misremembering as I seem to have felt similarly then.
Ultimately though it's a book about the plot, exploring scientific concepts of parallel worlds and some moral and ethical questions, and it felt it suffered from not making the characters more engaging. I also felt that the wittiness had dropped off in this book, making it a more serious read despite the continuation of classic movie references.
So overall, it's worth reading if you enjoyed the first two books, but I don't think it serves as a particularly enticing entry point to the series. It feels like it might be the final book, and if not I'd probably think twice a about whether I want to continue.