Pratchett, Terry; Baxter, Stephen -- The Long Earth [e-book purchase]

Oh, this is the most 1970s SF novel I've read in a long time. One day, plans appear on the Internet for a gizmo. You or any idiot can make one out of nails, wire, a switch, and a potato (for power, yes, Glados, we know). Flip the switch to step to an adjacent parallel Earth. The sequence of Earths runs in both "directions" for as far as anyone can explore; they're all uninhabited by sentient life, unending primeval wilderness. So what happens next?

In one sense, a complete rewrite of human society, as people turn around and walk out of prison, marriage, job, or whatever it is in life they were tired of. In another sense -- nothing at all; this book has only the barest traces of plot. Sense of wonder, absolutely, in buckets. Characters, yes: we get the solipsistic explorer, the jovial-but-opaque sentient computer (nee Tibetan motorcycle repairman; reincarnation appears to interact oddly with technology), and a mess of associated folks. They're all reasonably solid and amusing to hang out with.

No story, though. This is a tromp through Rama, a flycycle picaresque across the Ringworld. It's yet another infinitely-extended geography of the American frontier (and I'm beginning to think it's my fault authors keep writing them; I keep being unsatisfied...). One might be intrigued by a whiff of non-human step-capable sentients, or worried by a few scenes about political dissent and terrorism; but this isn't a mystery or a thriller. It's a trip.

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