The Long Cosmos by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter

This is it. The last book in the Long Earth series, and one of the few Terry Pratchett stories left that I can say I am reading for the very first time. The feeling is bittersweet and a little heartbreaking to be honest. I wanted to finish reading the story, to bring a close to the long earth. I wanted to know what happens.

But at the same time I wanted to prolong the experience, to be able to live in this multi-step universe just a little while longer.

The Long Cosmos is an apt end to this series, one that has let us experience Joshua Valiente’s almost entire a life, along with a few other salient and memorable characters like Lobsang, Sister Agnes, Maggie Kaufman, Nelson Azikiwe, Monica Jansson and Sally Linsay, who left us in previous installments.

But there is one character in this book that is especially poignant – Sancho, the troll. He is the first troll to have such a prominent character in this series, even though we’ve met many others along the way. But what makes him extra special is that he refers to himself as the Librarian, one that carries a troll-call from Valhalla University. Joshua often observes his actions to be very orangutan-like, and I wonder if Sancho is an homage to another orangutan librarian from Terry Pratchett’s other world, the caretaker of the library in Unseen University.

Another thing I found serendipitous was the reference to Shroedinger’s cat as one scientist’s explanation as to how the long earth works, even though he didn’t state the name explicitly. This so soon after reading another book that includes this famous cat in its story theorizing.

I am glad the book didn’t end with the passing of Joshua, and that, instead, the story was brought full circle of sorts, with him literally holding the future in his arms. The universe has opened up to stepping. What will happen to humanity? And will we ever find out what sent that invitation or why?

I guess we’ll never know for sure, at least from the point of Terry Pratchett’s imagining, and that, I reckon, is okay.

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