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Confessions of a Bibliophile

An aspiring writer and bookstore employee with an incredibly bad book-buying habit... I'll read just about anything (so long as it will appeal to my interests in some way), but my main loves are YA and sci-fi/fantasy. I also like quirky history and science books and will book nerd. A lot. Currently in the process of weeding out my personal library. Find me on Twitter @princess_starr or check out my YA book, Snowfall, on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/240027

The Long War (The Long Earth, #2)

The Long War (The Long Earth, #2) - Terry Pratchett,  Stephen Baxter I think I have to concede: this series is just not working for me. I don’t hate it, but I don’t really like it either, and it just rates as an overall “meh” for me. Which isn’t to say that it’s bad and I don’t think that nobody should read it, it’s just it’s not for me. (Btw, I should point out that I’m not knocking this because “omg Terry why aren’t you writing more Discworld we need more before the inevitable happens”)I do like this a little more than The Long Earth, mainly because we get a bit wider worldview than just being stuck with Lobsang and Joshua for the majority of the book. I like that some of the larger-scale effects of the first book are touched on and somewhat explored, specifically what happens when you have all of these settlements spread across the worlds and how humanity’s adapted to the presence of trolls. Unfortunately, like the first book, a lot of these plot points don’t really pay off in the long run or are hastily wrapped up with very little fanfare. For example, the eponymous Long War is nothing more than a handful of civil disobedience rallies across the American colonies and scouting missions by various twain crews. It’s given a lot of time in the first quarter of the book, and then the plot involving the US Navy veers off into “Hey let’s put a troll on the crew!” (One could argue that the Long War is between the beagles, but seeing that they don’t really bother with the humans and it’s specifically mentioned that the Long War is the conflict between the colonies and the United States.) In fact, the whole subplot of the beagle society feels like a last minute addition to throw in some semblance of a bloody conflict. What does help a little is that we get specific POVs for each plot point, so it’s not as herky-jerky and confusing. Despite my frustration over dropping the inter-Earth conflict, I actually really liked Captain Kauffman’s mission of trying to rally the various settlements into patriotism, and for as frustrating it is to have that plot point largely dropped, I do like her trying to understand trolls and getting on with them. Also, her complete refusal to swallow the lines of bullshit that “George Abrahams” (Lobsang) feeds her. Despite one section basically being a retread of the first book’s plot, the Chinese expedition with Roberta. (For as unlikeable and cold as Roberta comes off, that’s a large part of what endeared me to her—you can really see why seeing all of these worlds and knowing what their fate could be would lead one to be cold, even at her age.) I really enjoyed Archbishop Nelson’s search for Lobsang and the truth behind some of the things that the Black Corporation were involved in. There are several more specific problems with the plot but I’ve narrowed down at least one main one overall—anytime that the plot was focused on Joshua or Sally, it felt like things ground to a halt. I really don’t think that Joshua makes a compelling protagonist—he just does what somebody tells him, and he just reacts. There’s really nothing more to his character than just that. Sally really annoyed me this time around; I hated her attitude toward anyone who wasn’t a natural Stepper or didn’t spend their entire life hopping around the Long Earth. (Oh and I wanted to slap her whenever she talked down about Helen. Helen’s not good enough for Joshua because why? Because she’s not a natural Stepper and special? Look, I didn’t like the relationship either, but not because “Omg what is this mundane whore doing with the special snowflake.”)Not helping is that everything is connected. I don’t mind when it’s revealed that all of the events and characters are connected, when it’s done well. Here, it just feels like connecting the dots so that everything’s convenient. Again, why did Joshua and Helen hook up? Is it because she’s the only other named female character in the book who’s eligible to marry Joshua? I did not see any chemistry between the two of them. Kauffman and Nelson? Are specifically mentioned as ‘long-term investments of the Black Corporation,’ being quietly pushed to the positions they’re in now. I honestly was really enjoying Nelson’s storyline about the Quizmasters and his hunt for what the Lobsang Project was…until Lobsang dropped that. It’s not even left ambiguous—just merely mentioning that Nelson did take advantage of Black’s education program and leaving at that, I would have been fine. Having it so that he’s been manipulated to find the Quizmasters, less so. Why was Lobsang in this book at all? He doesn’t do anything aside from explaining what was going on to Kauffman and Nelson. Why the fuck is Sister Agnes resurrected? Does she actually serve a purpose beyond occasionally bringing Lobsang back down to Earth? Seriously, this was the one thing that did not make any sense to me at all in this book.The other problems were probably more glaring as I was reading. This has the subtlety of a cinderblock to the head. Now, I’m used to this—Pratchett isn’t exactly subtle in his books—but I don’t like how it’s handled. The whole troll issue in particular made me cringe. There’s this undercurrent that the trolls need to come back to the Long Earth because humanity does really care for them! And we’ve discovered that the trolls really are intelligent and sapient and loving and they’re just like humans! Except that we never get a real interaction with the trolls. Even Kauffman’s troll, Carl, is treated more like a mascot rather than an actual character. Hell, the kobolds and beagles have way more personality than any of the major troll characters and the beagles don’t even show up for three-quarters of the book. The troll plotline is something I’d expect from a book written forty or so years ago, not one from today. (And again, one I expect much better from Pratchett.) I really don’t like that the beagles are supposed to be the big climax at the end, but as I’ve said, they don’t show up until three-quarters of the way through. (The random encounter at the beginning feels more like setting up Chekov’s gun if anything, it doesn’t serve any other purpose than that.) I want to see normal humans—Jansson aside—deal with creatures like the beagles or the kobolds or anything else weird in the Long Earth. (Is bad that I just really wanted the whole book to be narrated from the POVs of the combers? That, I think would have been a far more interesting book than this: multiple POVs, different characters, different interactions.) And again, why the beagles want Joshua and Sally has nothing to do with anything else. They can’t step, so they’re not exactly attacking humanity, and they’re too busy with their own inter-species war and…why? Why are they in here?And I need to talk about the end of the book. The Zhang He expedition with Roberta, as I said, was a really good way of retreading ground from the first book but adding something different to the mix. The ending with Datum Yellowstone exploding, forcing an en masse Stepping migration? That is not a good way to retread ground, especially since it’s treated exactly in the way the first book ended. And again, it never feels like it’s completely important to the plot. Yes, there are numerous mentions that “Oh, there’s this weird seismic activity, haha Old Faithful’s not so faithful anymore!” but they’re largely forgettable because there’s no exploration or even further consequence to the plot. The book just ends. I think if there’s going to be a third book, at best? I’m probably just going to read it at work. Again, I’m not saying that this is terrible or how dare Terry Pratchett not write what I want him to write (which is a compliant I’ve heard from a few people)—I went into the first book clean, and I went into this book hoping that I would like it better. And it just doesn’t work for me. The writing’s still good, but the plotting needs work and there’s elements that I just don’t like. And it’s also very likely that I might not reread this in any near future either.