Archive for June 6th, 2013

June 6, 2013

The Long Earth: Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

by Andre

Paperback now available – sequel out June 20

Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter THE LONG EARTHTerry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter THE LONG WARFor all his staggering success, Terry Pratchett’s a writer who benefits from a partner in prose, if only to rein in his relentless mirth making. The Long Earth, a novel with ‘hard’ SF author Stephen Baxter about a chain of parallel Earths, is not as knockabout as Discworld and yet it has one of Pratchett’s most hilarious characters. Douglas Adams would have been proud to have created Lobsang, the artificial intelligence who claims to have been reincarnated from a Tibetan motorcyle repairman.

The multiverse premise is built around a pleasingly humdrum piece of technology, a potato-powered device called a Stepper, which enables anyone to take the leap into another uninhabited, skewed version of Earth and then keep going. It makes for a powerful, expansive science fiction novel, full of possibility, wonder and a certain amount of peril, which would suit young and adult readers alike. The co-writing between Pratchett and Baxter feels smooth as the authors adroitly handle quantum theory while focusing on individual families as they seek out new frontiers. The impact is also being felt on the original Earth – now known as Datum Earth – as people leave or step back into places they shouldn’t. No doubt certain newspapers would bemoan the effect on house prices.

While the authors enjoy creating these parallel worlds and exploring the consequences, they don’t forget to create an engaging hero. Joshua Valiente, a seasoned Stepper who was born on a parallel Earth, joins Lobsang on an exploratory mission in a high-tech airship as part of a colonising operation. If the ending to this inventive, witty novel feels a little rushed, the good news is that the sequel, The Long War, is out on June 20.

June 6, 2013

The Old Ways: Robert Macfarlane

by Andre

Paperback now available – £9.99

Robert Macfarlane THE OLD WAYSRobert Macfarlane HOLLOWAYNominated for the Samuel Johnson Prize, The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot is lyrical nature writing that draws deep on literature, myth and memory. It’s a book for walkers or indeed anyone who’s felt their imagination stir as they put one foot in front of the other on an ancient path. Macfarlane is intensely curious about the places and people he encounters – and himself. If you can read it outdoors with a majestic landscape as your companion then all the better. It’s also a book that does a fine job of reviving interest in the early 20th century poet Edward Thomas, who was heavily influenced by the English countryside. His collected poems are also available at the Riverside.

For fans of Robert Macfarlane, there’s also the intriguing Holloway about the author’s exploration of a sunken path in south Dorset. It’s a slender, exquisite volume illustrated by Radiohead artist Stanley Donwood.