The Long Mars, by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter – The third book in the Long Earth series, and perhaps the last unless Baxter gets another co-author. It’s kind of melancholy reading this after Pratchett’s death. The earlier books established that some of the alternate Earths no longer existed, and some people are taking advantage of this by journeying to Mars without having to worry about reaching escape velocity. They find that some versions of Mars are inhabited, and one even has its own space elevator. Another concern is how to handle a new more intelligent and potentially dangerous strain of humanity. Several characters follow over from the other books, but I can’t always keep them straight. Still, I enjoyed this look at alternate worlds.
The Portable Door, by Tom Holt – The first book in Holt’s series set at J.W. Wells & Co., the firm of magicians from Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Sorcerer. As is typical for Holt, the source material is freely acknowledged but also not entirely accurate. In this case, the account of John Wellington Wells being dragged to Hell is actually a cover story for his nephew Humphrey’s attempt to take over the company by enchanting John. When Paul Carpenter and Sophie Pettingell begin working for the company, they have no idea what is going on, and only learn after working on filing for a week or so that the place deals in magic and goblins own the building. The two of them also fall in love in a rather non-romantic fashion, which is rather more interesting in many ways than the typical love story. Having already read some later books in the series (the library system for my last home didn’t have this one), I know they later break up, then get back together, have a son, and retire into a pocket universe. Their getting together doesn’t stop a shape-shifting goblin from relentlessly pursuing Paul, though. There are some mysteries set up that eventually get resolved, and others that don’t. The treatment of J.W. Wells as a place with few scruples when it comes to making money is good satire, but also kind of depressing in the sense that there’s nothing much its employees can really do about the morally questionable aspects of their job. I’m not entirely sure why Holt stuck with this premise for so many books when most of his are one-offs, but it probably has something to do with the fact that he can incorporate just about anything into this universe, with the explanation that it’s hidden from most of humanity. It’s a world with goblins, dragons, fairies, giants, time travel, and connections to many other fantasies.