Thursday, June 27, 2013
The Long War by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter.
If you like: Trolls * ray guns * social change
The Long War takes place a decade after The Long Earth. (See my review here.) Many things have changed throughout the Long Earth. Humans have continued to expand out into further worlds. Datum Earth is no longer a central part of society for many people. This new Manifest Destiny has created an entanglement of problems. Those in the Datum believe that they have jurisdiction over those living in their long shadow, yet provide little support. Many out in the worlds have declared themselves autonomous. The conflicts between humans pale in comparison to the conflicts between humans and the multitude of humanoid and other sapient species that exist. The Long War is not just between humans, or between different species. Instead it is the battle to create a new sense of normalcy and morality in an infinitely evolving reality.
The conflict between the Datum and the Long Earth is reminiscent of many modern day political struggles. Each group is diametrically opposed to the other side, and willing to escalate events drastically to prove their point. Rather than reaching a peaceable understanding that could provide benefits to both sides, each group wants to prove that they are right. The Datum maintains an anachronistic societal philosophy that cannot help but fracture. Though the mass exodus has left the Datum struggling, and some people are unable to step, the aggression displayed toward the Long Earth has created a rift that is difficult to breach. How often does this same pattern repeat across controversial political topics? Each side is so focused on maintaining their own rights they are unwilling to explore the middle ground. The success of the Datum and all of humanity depends upon simple, amicable long-term planning. The same can be said for all of the controversies of the modern day.
The Long War does not limit itself to the territories explored in The Long Earth. Worlds are explored into the millions, and the variation extends to the far reaches of the imagination. There are not just humanoid species discovered, but a multitude of sapients. These divergent evolutionary paths invite many assumptions. It is easy to imagine similar priorities between dominant species, but even the smallest deviations can have unimaginable consequences. Humans must learn to accept that theirs is not the only way, and that each new encounter needs to be met with no expectations. Presumptions are turned on their heads over and over again. The greatest lesson to be learned from the Long Earth is that nothing is for certain, and the appearance of similarity may only be a facade. Learning to reserve judgement until local culture and custom have been revealed is never more important than in the far Earths.
If you would snuggle with a troll, read The Long War.
Pratchett, Terry; Baxter, Stephen. The Long War (Long Earth). HarperCollins, 2013. Kindle Edition.