Most of this book has nothing to do with Mars

Written by
Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter in 2014

Seriously, why entitle a book The Long Mars if the storyline about Mars itself is barely a third of the novel? Instead, most of the book is still dealing with Long Earth issues. I suppose Baxter and Pratchett couldn’t in good conscience go back and call the book The Longer Earth. Could they?

At the end of The Long War, the Yellowstone supervolcano has erupted and caused global climate, political and economic chaos. Thankfully though, most of those directly affected in the aftermath are simply able to step away to save themselves and start their lives again on another Earth. What’s not gone so well are the fates of several nations, Russia, Canada and others in close proximity to the volano crater. They’ve simply collapsed.

The Long Mars deals with several simultaneous storylines. The first is Joshua Valiente, who has now been kicked out of home for not spending enough time with his wife. Understandable. Of course, this is simply a way to ensure he doesn’t get written out of the future books. He embarks on a quest to find out about a mysterious outcropping of intelligence amongst humanity, and how it arose in the first place.

Meanwhile, Sally Linsay has been contacted by her father, who ropes her into a dangerous journey into the unknown. The Long Mars has finally been visited, and her father Willis is after something mysterious. Against her better judgement, she tags along because her curiosity for exploration gets the better of her.

Finally, Maggie Kaufmann sets off on a new blimp with most of her old crew since returning home to reach Earth 250 million, with a secondary goal of finding another airship that was lost five years ago, before Yellowstone’s eruption.

I think the further I read on into this series, the more I realise it’s quite a polarising one. Chiefly because it feels like the authors are indulging in their abilities of imagination and exploration, rather than create any particularly exciting plot points. Most of this book is still playing around with exotic kinds of life. For instance, I thought Baxter would have stopped writing about stromatolites in his Proxima/Ultima duology, but here they are again!

It’s not to say that exploration and imagination aren’t good aspects of a book series. I mean, I think this is chiefly what the series is about. But the background that Baxter and Pratchett have created is so vast indeed, that conflict really needs to be sought out, rather than it appearing in a protagonist’s lap. And, when a conflict eventually does occur, it gets solved in exceptionally simple ways, sidestepping any real moral dilemas by running away from the problem.

If you’ve enjoyed The Long Something series, its ability to get a reader’s imaginative juices flowing, to be a couch explorer of infinite worlds, then you’ll really enjoy The Long Mars. It continues on this track. However, if you’re looking at something that was as refreshing and different as The Long Earth (the first book in the series), you might be disappointed, because it’s more of the same.

Rating

Look, I enjoyed this book, but I would assume others might not.

Read this if you…

Liked the first two in the series (or if you’re really curious)

Skip this if you…

Want something that isn’t a repeat of a formula from a previous in the series. Might like to try something like Station Eleven?

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