As it turns out, it went the good way – for me at least, but it is the sort of work that won’t appeal to everyone.
It certainly isn’t a Discworld story; it’s quite light hearted, the design of the stepper itself could have been straight from the streets of Ankh-Morpork, but it’s not LOL funny like an early Discworld novel.
It’s also not the kind of hard sf Baxter often writes, but the world-building, which is based on potential alternative evolutionary paths for our world, seems like an extension of some of his other work.
In the year 2015, humanity discovers a way of ‘stepping’ into alternate earths by means of a simple device anyone can build based on instructions released onto the internet. Unlike some parallel world stories, humanity has evolved on only one Earth, although intelligent humanoids are discovered elsewhere and given flattering names like trolls and elves, as humans are likely to do.
This book is, for the most part, an odyssey through the Long Earth, following natural stepper Joshua Valienté, and an artificial intelligence named Lobsang, who believes himself to be a reincarnated Tibetan motorcycle repairman.
What Lobsang may or may not be is an interesting philosophical diversion for a few pages, but I would have liked to learn more about him, the extent of his artificial mind, and how reincarnation works in this world.
There isn’t a whole lot of action, but that’s not a bad thing because the world is fun to explore, and the writing is easy to get lost in. Between them the authors have created an interesting premise and a potentially infinite multiverse to explore; their two normally very different approaches to world-building coming together here and creating something I don’t think either could have done alone.
Open this book without expectations based on either Pratchett or Baxter; just sit back and watch the worlds go by.