Okay, so in these past few days I have been spending too much time reading and too little time blogging about it. In fact since my last post I finished The Long Earth (a Pratchett/Baxter collaboration) and The Homeward Bounders (by Diana Wynne Jones). Both books are worth reading and, against all odds, they make for an interesting combination since, in spite of their rather obvious differences, they do share a number of common elements, starting with the fact that both deal with the subject of parallel worlds. Sure, one deals mostly with what the sudden availability of a countless number of Earths would mean for human society as a whole while the other is a fantasy novel that deals with the adventures of a group of kids who become pawns in a sort of cosmic game that spans a multitude of worlds, but at least there is a common element that can serve as a connecting point, while painting two completely different pictures.
The problem is that while these two books do make a good ‘double feature’ analyzing them together isn’t easy.
Over all I have to say that I enjoyed The Long Earth more, but that may have more to do with who I am than with which one is the better book, meaning that while I love young adult fantasy literature –and The Homeward Bounders is a good example of that genre– I am not myself a young adult, and in that regard I have more in common with the target audience of The Long Earth (I am also a Pratchett fan, that’s what drew me to it in the first place, but this book doesn’t really feel much like a Pratchett one). There is also the fact that, when dealing with two books simultaneously there is a natural tendency to try to compare them, but given how deep the differences between these two books happen to run, that is inherently unfair.
In The Long Earth I liked the way in which, for once, the universe does not seem to revolve around humankind… after all, even though we may have trouble imagining a world in which we do not exist, the truth is that we are members of an insignificant species that evolved as part of a random biological process that took place on a pretty insignificant planet. In other words, we are not the center of the universe. The one thing I found downright annoying was the realization that, having finished the book, I have no choice but to wait for the sequel to come out… and since this one was released about a month ago, chances are that it’s going to take a while. What can I say, patience is most definitely not my strong suit.
The Homeward Bounders, is far more conventional in that regard (in other words, humans, humans, humans everywhere you look), but it is entertaining, well crafted, and resolved in a pretty coherent fashion. In other words no need for a sequel there. I admit that I was hesitant to take this one on (the last book I had read by the author was Hexwood, and that one had turned out to be something of a disappointment), and even now I am having a hard time trying to explain why I liked it. That is frustrating me a bit, but it is also mostly my problem. If I ever figure it out I’ll post an update, but for the time being I guess I’m going to have no choice but to leave it at that.