The Long War is a sequel to The Long Earth and is the third in the trilogy. It’s a long time since I’ve read a series of books like this but I chose them a lot when I was younger. One thing I seem to remember is feeling sure that even if I’d picked up a book in the middle of the series, I would understand what was going on, perhaps missing a few references here and there.
I read The Long War in early 2014 about two and a half years ago. I have to confess, while I remembered the concepts and the major events, I had forgotten details, character names and many of the relationships between characters. When reading The Long War I often found myself thinking, “Oh yeah, that guy!” or something along those lines, as I was gently reminded what had gone before. I think if I hadn’t read it, my thoughts would have been along the lines of ” Wait, who?”
That aside, I really enjoyed The Long War. Elsewhere I’ve seen it described as a series of vignettes, and I think that fits. The concept of the Long Earth, these almost, but not quite, identical universes floating next to ours, is a fascinating one. The authors indulge themselves, and the reader, in speculating about some of the implications of what they constructed in the previous book. It’s set a generation after the initial discover of the Long Earth and new discoveries are made, character stories are fleshed out and so on.
It could be criticised for having little definite narrative. A few story arcs are played out with the various characters but not much is done to tie these together. I kept expecting the pacing of the stories to increase towards a dramatic, unexpected finale but that didn’t quite happen. I’m not sure I mind, though. As it stands the novel is satisfying enough, and does a good job of building intrigue about what will happen next.
Perhaps this is just a standard middle novel effect. A lot of work is needed to set everything up for the climatic final novel and so you get this world-building book that digs deeper into the lives of existing characters, introduces necessary new characters and concepts and is there to set the scene. I’ll have to read more trilogies to be sure.
I guess I should try to say something helpful in this review. If you like Terry Pratchett or Steven Baxter, you’ll like this. However, if you haven’t read The Long Earth, read that first. If you liked The Long Earth, you’ll like this and it’ll probably make you want to read The Long Mars*. If you weren’t that interested in The Long Earth, give this a miss, it’s more of the same.
*I have just discovered that this is not, in fact a trilogy but a series of five books. I’m not yet sure how I feel about that.