SPOILERS The Long Cosmos **SPOILERS**

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Tonyblack

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#1
This thread is for discussing Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter's 5th and final book in The Long Earth series.

The following thread contains SPOILERS for this book. If you haven't read the book yet, you probably won't want to go any further until you have read it.

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You have been warned
 
Oct 1, 2009
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#2
Thank you, Tony. Honored to make the first comment. Gosh, am I the only one on this board who has finished it, thanks to a library loan?

Not going to get into the details, but in terms of "ranking" I would put this sort of in the middle of the pack. It still suffers from the same excess that plagues most of the other books--way too much unneeded exposition, awkward dialogue-based back story relevation, and too much emphasis on characters no one cares about (why, for example, does the insufferable Nelson get chapter after chapter while the far more interesting Snowy the Beagle gets a one-sentence cameo?).

Between a lot of totally uninteresting dross, there are a few good sequences. Valiente's "last sabbatical" and his bromantic relationship with the troll Sancho is one of the best things in the book. The "cross galaxy" step is kind of fun, although ultimately pointless--go to the center of the galaxy and all you see is a bunch of 2001-style monoliths?

But a lot of this is just derivative. The whole "aliens send us blueprints and we'll build the thing we don't understand how it works and it whisks us away around the galaxy" is lifted straight from Carl Sagan's Contact, to a point where Baxter admits this literally in the story with endless references to that book and movie.

And, if this is to be the last book in the series, it's disappointing that the number of unresolved plot stants from other books are left hanging. For example, we never really find out what the "First Person Singular" thing from the first book really is how it's connected into the whole Long Earth zeitgist. What about the Long Mars creatures? Are they doing to "Join Us,". too? What do the monoliths really mean? Who send the "Join Us" question? What about that strange alien structure from the first book? There's also a hint in this book that the Silver Beetles have been causing intergalactic havoc in the pi-Long Earth where the Contact trip took place.

What is pretty evident here is that the book is 100% Baxter. Perhaps Pterry provided some general plot outlines for this, but the writing and dialogue reflects none of Pterry's economy of style or wit. .
 

The Mad Collector

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#3
I have also finished The Long Cosmos and will add to this thread in due course once I have finished thinking about the book properly. One thing I will add to the above is that I agree this seems to be entirely Stephen Baxter at least as far as the practical writing is concerned (plot lines were apparently discussed jointly) and he confirms in the foreword that all editing was done by him. This did largely resolve one of the major problems with the previous books in the series which was that the two authors, whilst both very good in their own works, failed to gel in writing styles which left the books feeling disjointed. This book feels like a more complete narrative albeit still with the annoying plot holes and with an all to familiar "what on earth happened in the end, you can't just do that and then leave it" feeling that all the books have had.

More to come when I have arranged my thoughts better...
 

Tonyblack

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#4
I've not finished the book yet, so I haven't looked at the previous comments. I will say that, at the start of the book, I thought it was similar to Carl Sagan's Contact . . . only to have one of the characters say the same thing. These books are very unlike Pratchett books, but I'm enjoying this one so far. I enjoy the A.C. Clarke style of taking an idea and using possible or existing science to expand on it making it feel real. The idea of the Brick Moon is one that I'm glad they expanded on as well as the mining of the destroyed Earth in the Gap. So far as I've gotten, there is no real substantive story apart from the "Join Us" message. As is typical with this series, there are lots of character threads which get built upon before drawing them all in together. So I'm enjoying it so far. I was very glad to read that the series ends with this one. I was concerned that I'd be faced with the choice of deciding whether to follow the series written without any influence of Terry. I haven't seen a great deal of Terry's influence in this one so far, but that is to be expected.
 

Tonyblack

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#5
I finished the book last night and, I have to say that I generally enjoyed it. It did seem to wander off in places, but there was some good Sci-Fi in there. Parts of it reminded me of Arthur C Clarke, as I said in my previous post. This was clear with the idea of the giant hydrogen filled trees. It seems that someone - probably Stephen Baxter, put a lot of thought into it. As I was getting closer to the end of the book, I was wondering how the story would be resolved. I was desperately hoping there wasn't going to be some cheesy ending where the intrepid Long Earthers would meet up with highly intelligent aliens, who would patronise them. I'm happy they didn't go down that route and was very satisfied with the ending. In many ways they did indeed get a message - but it was a message from the Long Cosmos saying that sapient beings such as themselves and the many other races throughout the Cosmos had evolved alongside the Cosmos. That the Long Earth and Long Mars were just the tiniest bit of an infinitely long Cosmos and that, now they had the ability to leave the Long Earth, they could also visit other worlds in the blink of an eye, travelling billions of light years in a matter of seconds.

But what I really got from this book was an homage of Sci-Fi books. Certainly Sagan's Contact (which I highly recommend) and Clarke's 2001 A Space Odyssey. These weren't subtle. It's a while since I read 2001, but I seem to remember one chapter referred to Bowman's journey as being like Grand Central Station - this analogy was also used in this book. The machine built by the Next (which actually brought together all the known sapient species in a joint effort) was likened to Stargate and I think that is a good analogy. This book went to the trouble to theorise the mechanism of the Stargate though.

All in all, the series had its high and low points. I'm very glad to have read it and I am very happy that it is now ended. The conclusion of the book has opened all sorts of ideas for the reader to contemplate without simply spoon feeding the answers. That is something I like in Sci-Fi. I had a similar feeling with the way The Shepherd's Crown. There are numerous stories still there in Discworld that will never be told and the same goes for The Long Cosmos.
 
Oct 1, 2009
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#6
One thing that I never quite understood was why iron couldn't be transported across the Long Earths. Maybe this was meant as a kind of backhanded reference to Lords and Ladies, but logically it made no sense. Why would the "universe" of the LEs consider iron to be different than any other metal? Also, if iron couldn't transport, then how did people survive the jump, given that iron is the core mineral in blood?And don't give me some kind of "if you carry it, if won't go through, but if it's inside you that's okay" because, again, the quantum of such a universe wouldn't recognize the difference between individual iron atoms and a bunch of them assembled in an anvil.
 

Tonyblack

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#7
That's something I always wondered as well. It's not like iron is a rare substance. It did sort of provide some interesting thought experiments though. It meant that you couldn't just step a battleship over for example and that people were going to have to work out alternatives. Of course iron was able to defeat the god of the Old Testament:
The Bible said:
"And the LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron."
What a wuss! :laugh:
 
Oct 1, 2009
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#8
Tonyblack said:
:
The Bible said:
"And the LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron."
What a wuss! :laugh:
Total tangent here, but that's pretty interesting. It comes from the Book of Judges, which is not a book in the Torah. Judges was probably written during the period of the Jewish exile to Babylonia or even later as a way to create a "history" of Israelites from the period following the Israelites' entry into the land of Canann to the time of the first king of Israel (Saul).

The fact that the tribal god of the Israelites wasn't able to help them defeat the iron-chariot driving enemies suggests that the story is based on some kind of historical event that took place hundreds of years before the book was written. Whatever tribe was later called Judah didn't win their battle and when Judges was written the authors added the "Lord" bit to keep a running tally where the Big Guy brought in a win and where he whiffed. I don't think iron had anything to do with it--it was more a comment that Judah's enemy won because they were technologically superior (other parts in the Old Testament mention that the Israelis were not able to work with iron, a serious disadvantage, militarily).

It also points out how much of what became the Old Testament was assembled from various short stories written by many different authors during a long period of time. The author(s) of Judges probably was more concerned with chronicling the history of the people and less concerned with proving the infallibility of the deity, a direct contradiction of the authors of the Torah, who were out to prove that Yahweh was the one and only god who mattered and He could do anything he wanted.

If you take away all the faith stuff from your reading of the Bible and read it as literature, it becomes a really interesting documentation of different styles, belie systems and motivations. The final product really was an assembly job, and could have used a real good editor.

Just as (trying desperately to bring it back to the subject) The Long Cosmos could have some better editing to weed out the boring bits. :laugh:
 
#9
Glad to see some other LONG EARTH fans here. I started with COSMOS, then read EARTH and now am into MARS, a silly way to do it but kind of like Sally's way of getting around the universe...my major disappointment with the series is how much it seems to Baxter vs. the type of Pratchett imagination/humor we get in Discworld books. Much in the style of later Heinlein novels, with sentient computers as in THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS and transplanting consciousness as in I WILL FEAR NO EVIL. Anyway, interesting premise and I look forward to reading the rest of them, but then I think I'll leave Baxter alone and get back to the many Discworld books I have yet to read.
 

Tonyblack

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#10
dsosin said:
Glad to see some other LONG EARTH fans here. I started with COSMOS, then read EARTH and now am into MARS, a silly way to do it but kind of like Sally's way of getting around the universe...my major disappointment with the series is how much it seems to Baxter vs. the type of Pratchett imagination/humor we get in Discworld books. Much in the style of later Heinlein novels, with sentient computers as in THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS and transplanting consciousness as in I WILL FEAR NO EVIL. Anyway, interesting premise and I look forward to reading the rest of them, but then I think I'll leave Baxter alone and get back to the many Discworld books I have yet to read.
Pleased to meet you! :) I must say that I'm not feeling particularly drawn to Baxter's books either.
 
Feb 14, 2017
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#11
First post here, I felt compelled to discuss this after I've just read the final book.

I read The Long Earth when it was released in 2012, then five years on read the remaining four books over the course of the last three weeks. The only thing that truly annoys me is we don't find out about the Earth Moon that was orbiting the larger planet that had lights on it.

It was briefly mentioned at the beginning of Cosmos, so I was thinking "Finally, we're getting back to this!" then it just turned out Maggie was being pulled away to build the machine and we never really found out.

It seems to be that every chance they had to capitalize on something, they just didn't do it. We never really dug deep into how the Thinker worked, spent half the book building this continent sized computer and I felt it was just a huge waste of time; it wasn't really obvious why it was needed in the first place as Indra more than likely had the capability to step North anyway. The only people that could talk to this great computer were two lollipops, and the only thing they got was "Join Us" out of it, which is what everyone else already had; so I really don't understand why this wasted so much of the book. I'd had rather cut out all the Nelson rubbish, them build the computer right at the start; and spend more time exploring planets rather than dedicating a few pitiful chapters to it. The ending just felt extremely rushed.

A disappointment overall I thought. What I enjoyed most about this series though was following the life of Joshua and at the end, his granddaughter popped into existence just has he did, but unlike him, she would never be alone.

The whole series was fun overall but after dedicating so much of my time reading this series, I wasn't left with a sense of completion and that's a shame. And like everyone else, I think I'll stick to Pratchett novels, rather than read anything else Baxter has to offer. Unless of course he tries to redeem himself with another Long Earth novel.
 

Tonyblack

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#12
I know what you mean - the series was enjoyable and thought provoking, but it wasn't like picking up a new Discworld book and meeting all our old friends and seeing what they've been up to.
 

Ixi

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#13
Just finished The Long Cosmos. I must say my feelings are mixed, if a little bit disappointed. I immensely enjoyed the first one, The Long Earth - the idea of a necklace of Long Earths was pretty superb, the characters - a boy who calmly sorts and paints the parts before putting them together, a computer who claims he's a reincarnated Tibetian motorcycle repairman and a sarcastic girl who dubs the flying machine as a 'flying penis' were intriguing. That was a great start and I was curious about the next books. I would rate it (5/5). :)

However, the second, The Long War was a disappointment - for all possibilities that could be described and explored this was not what I was expecting, the wonders and characters lost in the conflict of human natures (4/5). The Long Mars was simply boring for me, kind of anticlimatic (3/5) :-/. The Long Utopia was little better than The Long Mars, though the end felt a little rushed (3,5/5).

So I was a little sceptic about the last one, The Long Cosmos, but I was pleasantly surprised, I especially liked the Joshua and Sancho's story and their interaction. :clap: It was a decent end to the series, though one must be curious whether there would be more books if STP wasn't taken from us so soon. (4/5)

Overall I think the concept is brilliant, but not used to the full potential. :think:
 
A

Anonymous

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#14
raisindot said:
One thing that I never quite understood was why iron couldn't be transported across the Long Earths..
Yeah, have just the same question. But I won't read all the replies here, as I didn't finish reading yet
 

Tonyblack

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#15
I've assumed it's a nod to Terry's use of folklore as in Lords and Ladies. Iron was believed to repel certain spirits. It's why they used to hang up a horseshoe for luck. In the Long Earth series, I think it was put in to create a problem for the humans and therefore to make the stories more challenging. I'm not convinced that the writers always got things right with this. Although iron seems to be a pretty simple metal to forge once the settlers had arrived at a world.
 
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#16
Tonyblack said:
I've assumed it's a nod to Terry's use of folklore as in Lords and Ladies. Iron was believed to repel certain spirits. It's why they used to hang up a horseshoe for luck. In the Long Earth series, I think it was put in to create a problem for the humans and therefore to make the stories more challenging. I'm not convinced that the writers always got things right with this. Although iron seems to be a pretty simple metal to forge once the settlers had arrived at a world.
Yeah, the series didn't have nearly enough narrative problems. :)

But this particular one about iron made no sense. Because if you couldn't transport iron between worlds, then it stands to reason that any human transporting to another world would suddenly find themselves without iron in their bodies, and, well, dead. :)
 

Tonyblack

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#17
Yes, I wondered about that as well. I assume that it's a trace element in our blood. Would it kill us if it were suddenly extracted? I don't honestly know. In Lords and Ladies {WARNING SPOILER]
Nanny Ogg manages to throw an iron through the portal with no apparent problem.
This despite Granny having the nails ripped from her boots (If I remember correctly)
. Sad to say, I think that we sometimes have to suspend belief. It's odd, but amusing, to discuss scientific facts about books set in fictional worlds.
 
Oct 1, 2009
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#18
Tonyblack said:
Yes, I wondered about that as well. I assume that it's a trace element in our blood. Would it kill us if it were suddenly extracted? I don't honestly know. In Lords and Ladies {WARNING SPOILER]
Nanny Ogg manages to throw an iron through the portal with no apparent problem.
This despite Granny having the nails ripped from her boots (If I remember correctly)
. Sad to say, I think that we sometimes have to suspend belief. It's odd, but amusing, to discuss scientific facts about books set in fictional worlds.
Well, since the body uses iron to build red blood calls, suddenly finding yourself without it would quite likely lead to total destruction of the circulatory system. So, yeah, it's kinda important.

And, yeah, Pterry wasn't quite consistent with how iron was used (or not used) in the books set in the Elven realm. After all, Tiffany was able to bring her iron pot into the Elf world in The Wee Free Men, wasn't she?

But then again, we're willing to accept the ideas of "no iron in elfland" in fantasy. But such things are less forgivable in science fiction.
 

RathDarkblade

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#19
Hmm. Perhaps this is because science fiction, when it started out, was either written by scientists or science writers, or people who knew how science works - Asimov, Heinlein, Bradbury, Clarke, Philip K Dick, Ursula LeGuin, and so on - so they were aware of the limitations and constraints of science, as well as what scientists could achieve and how quickly.

Perhaps the term "science fiction" is thrown around too loosely, then. If we define "science fiction" as rigidly as a story such as "Stranger in a Strange Land" or "Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said", or any of Asimov's science-fiction mysteries, then science fiction becomes just that - a work of fiction that, nevertheless, confirms to scientific principles as the human race understands them. (For instance, in one of Asimov's sci-fi mysteries, a case
of murder on the moon relies on the fact that the moon has no atmosphere
).

On the other hand, works such as "Star Trek", "Star Wars", "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" and "Starship Troopers" are also classified as science fiction. It's very difficult for me to reconcile something like "Starship Troopers", or even "Star Wars", with scientific principles. "Star Trek" is somewhat more scientific, although things like faster-than-light travel, phasers and particle transportation (or "beaming") are - obviously - a fantasy (as it has been since "Star Trek" first arrived in the mid-1960s). As for HHGTHG, naturally it has very little to do with science, even though it is crammed with very funny (and occasionally philosophical) ideas, such as the effect of the Babel Fish on interstellar warfare, or musings on the origins of deities. ("Oh dear", says God, and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic). ;)

Perhaps some of the more extreme cases of science fiction could be re-classified. Since "Starship Troopers" is pure fantasy, it could be classified as a "space fantasy" (just as "Star Wars" has been classified as a "space opera" - although I don't understand the terms, as no-one in SW ever pauses to sing a note). ;) HHGTHG could become a "comedic science fiction" (I deliberately use the word "comedic" rather than "comic", to avoid association with comic strips). And "Star Trek" could become "science fiction, with fantasy elements" (e.g. phasers, or the various worlds that Captain Kirk visits). And so on. ;)

What's your view? :)
 

cocershay

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#20
Well, since the body uses iron to build red blood calls, suddenly finding yourself without it would quite likely lead to total destruction of the circulatory system. So, yeah, it's kinda important.

And, yeah, Pterry wasn't quite consistent with how iron was used (or not used) in the books set in the Elven realm. After all, Tiffany was able to bring her iron pot into the Elf world in The Wee Free Men, wasn't she?

But then again, we're willing to accept the ideas of "no iron in elfland" in fantasy. But such things are less forgivable in science fiction.
I'm stunned that none of you remember the actual explanation of this in The Long Earth. "No metallic iron can be carried over[...] Or steel[...] In your blood the iron is chemically bound up in organic molecules, inside your haemoglobin, one molecule at a time. Iron molecules can go over if they are in chemical compounds like that, just not in the form of metal. Why, rust can be carried over because that's a compound of iron with water and oxygen. You can't take your piece over sir, except for all the rust on the shaft..."

And of course whenever weapons are mentioned in the stepwise worlds they are always made of bronze and/or ceramic, unless they are forged from iron in that particular world but then they have to stay in that world. The only thing that doesn't quite make sense to me about it is that surely steel is a compound of iron and carbon, so why would steel not be steppable but haemoglobin is? Unless it's to do with the fact that steel is still technically metallic iron and is not an "organic molecule" and all metallic iron comes from iron ore, whereas iron in the blood does not.
 

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