The Long Mars by the title alone is about taking the Long Earth concept a bit further and has us looking at the rest of the planets in our solar system. And that is a decent enough question to ask - what would make Earth so special that it's the only one duplicated infinitely after all, right? That would be a pretty arrogant view of the universe to pursue.
But beyond the determination whether or not the Long Earth had resulted in a Long Mars as well, they also introduced an additional sub-plot into the mix of things that I'm not sure was all that necessary for the story as a whole. But hey, I'm sure there was a big plan for the 5-book series and this just didn't feel quite to my liking but I kind of get why it was needed.
Synopsis: The Long Mars is the third book in the 5-book science fiction series. The series was authored by Sir Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter.
Things have settled into a new sort of calm across the Long Earth and it seems the worst of the tensions featured in the last book have dissipated. And we have Sally Linsay being summoned to by her father for reasons unknown. He had last been involved with the efforts to create a new space program that took advantage of the Gap, or the particular iteration of the Long Earth where the planet had been destroyed and thus stepping there mean stepping into vacuum. But direct access to a vacuum in that manner also meant no more need to break free of Earth's atmosphere and thus opened the doors for a different sort of space exploration.
But at the same time, Lobsang reaches out to Joshua once more because he feels there's something going on in the Long Earth again. He theorizes that the Long Earth will lead the way to the creation of the next version of humanity that is better adapted to the Long Earth somehow and the investigation leads them to the remote community of Happy Landings. This is the same town that feels like a virtual magnet for natural steppings accidentally stepping across the planet for the very first time.
I was kind of excited about the whole Mars exploration since it involved an interesting alternative method for visiting another planet versus our conventional methods that didn't seem too implausible. And the very first few learnings about the Mars and it being a Long Mars as well was equally interesting and did provide a fun plot point. But the fun of this part of the story stretched a little thing given how things were expanded and eventually resolved.
The plot about new humans and how they were a potential force to be reckoned in the Long Earth added an almost superhero-like element to the story that didn't quite feel at home with everything else. And I will add that even after reading the book after this one, I still didn't quite feel satisfied with the end result and the role these individuals played in the future. I know that sounds like a bit of a spoiler, but at the same time I can't quite shake off how annoying the whole thing felt like while I was reading the book. It's not exactly a deal-breaker, but it does feel like a pebble in your shoe.
You'd think that by this third book they're try to shake off the whole Lobsang seeks out Joshua because of a greater threat to the Long Earth and he eventually comes along for the ride routine. but here it was again.. I was really hopeful with learning more about Sally and following her little adventure, but again all roads led back to Lobsang. This sort of makes sense, but it has also gotten a little old by now. At least there were still some interesting bits in their journey and the ultimate still generally made sense for this quirky little universe.
The Long Mars is pretty good when it breaks new ground by annoying with it falls to old patterns or shallow reasons for one character's action or another. But the journey is far from over, it seems, and we can only see where the next twain will take us. Thus the book gets 3.5 strange iterations of Mars out of a possible 5.