2045-2059. After the cataclysmic upheavals of Step Day and the Yellowstone eruption humanity is spreading further into the Long Earth, and society, on a battered Datum Earth and beyond, continues to evolve.
Now an elderly and cantankerous AI, Lobsang lives in disguise with Agnes in an exotic, far-distant world. He’s convinced they’re leading a normal life in New Springfield – they even adopt a child – but it seems they have been guided there for a reason. As rumours of strange sightings and hauntings proliferate, it becomes clear that something is very awry with this particular world.
Millions of steps away, Joshua is on a personal journey of discovery: learning about the father he never knew and a secret family history. But then he receives a summons from New Springfield. Lobsang now understands the enormity of what’s taking place beneath the surface of his earth – a threat to all the worlds of the Long Earth.
To counter this threat will require the combined efforts of humankind, machine and the super-intelligent Next. And some must make the ultimate sacrifice . . .
The fourth installment of Baxter and the late Pratchett's ambitious Long Earth saga (after The Long Mars) makes it clear that their imagination and world-building know no limits. In the years since the Yellowstone eruption devastated the original Earth, humans have spread out across the millions of parallel worlds known as the Long Earth, taking advantage of ample resources and near-infinite room. The AI Lobsang has faked his death and now lives a simple life on Earth West 1,217,756 along with his partner, Agnes, and their adopted son. However, that idyllic world hides a bizarre secret: metallic alien bugs have infiltrated from a previously unknown location and are steadily destroying the planet. Lobsang, along with old friends Joshua Valiente and Sally Linsay, must find a way to stop them before the entire Long Earth is imperiled. Despite the epic scope and attention to scientific detail, the authors never lose sight of the human touch even if that human is an AI. Even so, the text is infused with an introspective air of loss, undermining the story's ultimate impact.