The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
Book #1 in the Long Earth series.
The Long Earth opens with three of our most important characters. Private Percy, a British soldier who finds himself in a field far away from the war. Joshua Valiente, a newborn just birthed in a field. I, who lives long ago on a shadow of our North America. We learn very quickly of the Long Earth-our Earth has become/has always been multidimensional. With the help of a device called a Step Box, which was invented by the mysterious Willis Linsay, people are able to “step” east or west to a different dimension of Earth. The step box only works for the individual who completes its’ construction and because this book has Terry Pratchett as an author, it’s powered by a potato. Yep. Potato. I love it.
We follow Joshua on his journey with an AI named Lobsang, across more steps than anyone has ever taken before. There are trolls, variations of every animal imaginable, untouched landscapes, and lands devastated by disaster. Along the way, Joshua meets Sally Linsay, the daughter of the step box inventor, but it’s where Joshua meets her that is significant. And the little fact that Sally has been stepping long before anyone else. And that Private Percy? He was a soldier from the first world war, presumed dead in battle, and then mysteriously shows up decades later still in his uniform and mumbling about Russians. Another natural stepper? How many are there?
Across the many Long Earths, people set out to find their fortunes on untouched worlds while others are left behind because they are physically unable to step. We learn that government will always be government. Starting a new life four earths over? That’s still owned by your home country and yeah, you’re paying taxes on it. Can humans make a new life amongst trolls and unidentifiable species? What happens to the people left behind? Will humans destroy a new earth just like they’ve done to our original, Datum Earth? How far should humans go? How far can they go? Who is I? How was I created? Is I influencing all of the Long Earths?
This book was so good. I really liked how the Long Earth was explained within the first few pages so that you can just go along with the story and not have to try and wrap your head around dimensional travel. It’s more about the characters and human behavior than physics. It’s a slightly older book, from 2012, but it’s new to me and now I have to wait for book #2 to come so I can keep going.