boekomslag Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter - The long earth (The long earth 1)

1916: the Western Front. Private Percy Blakeney wakes up. He is lying on fresh spring grass. He can hear birdsong, and the wind in the leaves in the trees. Where have the mud, blood and blasted landscape of No Man’s Land gone? 2015: Madison, Wisconsin. Cop Monica Jansson is exploring the burned-out home of a reclusive – some said mad, others dangerous – scientist when she finds a curious gadget – a box containing some wiring, a three-way switch and a…potato. It is the prototype of an invention that will change the way Mankind views his world for ever. And that’s an understatement if ever there was one…

Schrijver: Stephen Baxter, Terry Pratchett
Titel: The Long Earth
Serie: The Long Earth #1
Uitgeverij: Doubleday (GB)
Jaartal: 2012
Bladzijden: 344
Genre: science fiction
Leeftijd: 18+
Mijn mening: 4 sterren

  • we hebben het boek in juli 2013 gekocht bij boekwinkel Waterstones in Oban
  • ik las het boek van 26 augustus t/m 6 september 2014 en dit was boek 69 van de boeken die ik in 2014 gelezen heb

Over het verhaal

In a forest glade:
Private Percy woke up to birdsong. It was a long time since he had heard birdsong, the guns saw to that. For a while he was content to lie there in the blissful quiet.
Although he was slightly worried, in a concussed kind of way, why he was lying in damp though fragrant grass and not on his bedroll. Ah yes, fragrant grass, there hadn’t been much fragrance where he’d just been! Cordite, hot oil, burned flesh and the stink of unwashed men, that was what he was used to.
He wondered if he was dead. After all, it had been a fearsome bombardment.
Well, if he was dead then this would do for a heaven, after the hell of noise and screams and mud. And if it wasn’t heaven, then his sergeant would be giving him a kicking, pulling him up, looking him over and sending him down to the mess for a cup of tea and a wad. But there was no sergeant, and no noise except the birdsong in the trees. (blz. 9)

Op een dag komen mensen er achter dat er meerdere versies van de Aarde zijn. Met behulp van een kastje kun je 1 stap naar het oosten of naar het westen gaan en dan sta je opeens op dezelfde plek, maar dan in een andere Aarde. Niemand wist dat het bestond. Op internet stond opeens uitleg over ‘stepping’ en hoe je zo’n kastje kunt bouwen. Veel jongeren gingen het uitproberen. Joshua was een van hen. En hij komt er ook achter dat hij kan ‘steppen’ zonder kastje. Joshua voelt zich thuis op de andere Aardes.

Joshua realized immediately that he’d left his box behind.
He’d stepped without the box! And, worse, that cop had seen him step without the box. Now he was in trouble.
So he got away. He just kept stepping, away from where he’d been, whatever away meant. He didn’t stop, or slow down. He just kept going, one step after the next, each step like a soft jolt in his gut. One world after another, as if it was a series of rooms. One step after the next away from Officer Jansson. Deeper into this corridor of forest.
As he pressed on there was no more city, no buildings, no lights, no people. Just this forest, but a forest that changed with every step. Trees came out of nowhere with one step and disappeared with the next, like bits of scenery in the plays the kids had to put on in the Home, yet all the trees seemed real, all hard and solid and deep-rooted in the earth. Sometimes it was warmer, sometimes a little colder. But there was always forest, around him. And it was always dawn. Some things didn’t change, then: the ground, solid under his feet, the dawn sky. That pleased him, to detect order in this new world. (blz. 37)

De wereld verandert! Er komt een scheiding tussen mensen die kunnen ‘steppen’ en mensen die dat niet kunnen. De mensen die kunnen ‘steppen’ gaan de andere Aardes verkennen. Sommige mensen proberen een manier te vinden om rijk te worden, andere mensen zoeken een ongestoorde plek om te wonen. Maar niemand weet wat de Long Earth (de verzameling Aardes) nu eigenlijk is en hoe groot het is.

But… the ends of the Long Earth?
Was there an end? People were saying there must be a whole circle of Earths, because the Stepper box took you either East or West, and everybody believed that East must meet West! But nobody knew. Nobody knew what all the other Earths were doing out there in the first place. Perhaps it was time somebody tried to find out.
(blz. 72)

Er wordt een expeditie op touw gezet: er is een grote zeppeling gemaakt die de technologie bezig om te kunnen ‘steppen’. Joshua wordt gevraagd om mee te gaan op expedie. Het enige andere expeditielid is Lobsang. Lobsang is geen persoon, maar een kunstmatige intelligentie met het geheugen van een Tibetaanse man.

Joshua felt oddly thrilled at the prospect of the voyage in a small-boy kind of way. ‘What do you think we’re going to find out there, Lobsang? I guess anything is possible if you go far enough. What about dragons?’
‘I would suggest we might expect to find anything that could possibly exist in the conditions on this planet, within the constraints of the laws of physics, and bearing in mind that the planet has not always been so peaceful as it is now. All creatures on Earth have been hammered on the anvil of its gravity, for example, which influences size and morphology. So I am sceptical about finding armoured reptiles who can fly and spout flames.’
‘Sounds a little drab.’
‘However, I would not be human if I did not acknowledge one important factor, which is that I might be totally wrong. And that would be very exciting.
‘Well, we’ll find out – if this thing actually steps.’
Lobsang’s synthetic face folded into a smile. ‘Actually we’ve been stepping for the last minute or so.’
Joshua turned to a window and saw that it was true. The construction site had cleared away; they must have passed out of the sheaf of known worlds in the first few steps – although that word ‘known’ was something of a joke. Even the stepwise worlds right next to the Datum had barely been explored; humans were colonizing the Long Earth in thin lines stretched aross the worlds. Anything could be living out back in the woods… And he, evidently, was going deeper into those woods than anybody before him.
‘How fast will this thing go?’
‘You’ll be pleasantly surprised, Joshua.’
‘You’re going to change the world with this technology, Lobsang.’
‘Oh, I know that. Up to now the Long Earth has been opened up on foot. It’s been medieval. No, worse than that, we haven’t even been able to use horses. Stone Age! But of course, even on foot humans have been moving out since Step Day. Dreaming of a new frontier, of the riches of the new worlds…’ (blz. 84)

Wat zullen ze onderweg allemaal tegenkomen? Kunnen ze ontdekken waarom mensen opeens konden ‘steppen’? Zijn er overeenkomsten tussen de verschillende Aardes?

Mening over het boek

Ik ben al jaren fan van de boeken van Terry Pratchett en ik heb ook boeken van Stephen Baxter gelezen. Een boek van beide heren samen, terwijl Pratchett normaal gesproken fantasy schrijft en Baxter science fiction, daar was ik wel benieuwd naar. Ook het idee van parallelle werelden is intrigerend. Helaas zit er niet zoveel Pratchett-humor in het verhaal…

Ik vond het een leuk boek om te lezen. Het verhaal fascineerde me en ik zou dolgraag de Long Earth zelf willen ontdekken. Dit is het eerste deel van een serie en ik ben erg benieuwd naar de volgende delen. Het boek is niet vertaald in het Nederlands.

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