I know it's bad form to post on a thread that's been inactive for over a year, but I was re-reading The Long Earth and The Long War in preparation for reading The Long Mars and I have to admit the whole beagle thing bothered me, particularly the way it ended.
So, to summarize, Joshua is led to the beagle world by officer Janson where he is attacked, "stapled", and held as a hostage to force Sally to go collect ray guns for the beagles. After she does this, the beagle ruler, Petra, unsurprisingly orders one of her warriors, Snowey, to execute Joshua in a Fifth Elephant style "hunt". Snowey frees Joshua, but not before biting off his left hand to take back to Petra to prove that he was killed (i.e. like the huntsman in Snow White). Joshua gets a last laugh in though, by making an obcene gesture with his left hand as it's being bit off.
My problems with this are:
1. Why in the world would Joshua force himself not to step when he was initially attacked? He's not an ambassador, war will not be averted by his sacrifice. The beagles have showed that they cannot be trusted by attacking him, why not use his one advantage by stepping sideways out of the attacker's grasp, walking three feet sideways, and stepping back to the beagle world?
2. The beagle's community was not large. When they returned with the advanced ray guns, why didn't Sally & Janson simply open fire on the beagles. The beagles were armed with spears, crossbows, and stone knives. Sally & Janson had ray guns and could step to avoid primitive projectile weapons. It would have been a slaughter! For that matter, couldn't they have just used one of the ray guns to blast the crossbow-pack on Joshua's back? It may be rigged to go off if he undoes the band across his chest, but I doubt that it would hold up to a good ray-gun blast!
3. Why did Snowy bite off his hand? He and Li-li were both party to Joshua's escape. Snowy because he refrained from killing him, and Li-li because she was there to remove the crossbow-pack so Joshua could leave without dying. Instead of maiming him, Li-li could have removed the pack and Joshua could have stepped with the pack pointed down. The iron pin would remain in the beagle world, the crossbow would fire harmlessly into the dirt of the next world, and Snowy would have returned to Petra with the iron pin and told her that Joshua stepped, choosing a fast death to a slower, more painful one. The only reason for the biting-the-hand-off was for the cheap joke about the obscene gesture, which brings me to:
4. When Snowy bit the hand off, he severed all the tendons. Any gesture made by Joshua would not have remained once the tension on the tendons by the muscles in the arms was released. Besides, it's kind of pointless; the gesture would be as meaningless in the beagle world as making the V symbol that's offensive in England would be in America.
Also, I was also surprised that they killed Janson. She was there right from the beginning. I'm currently halfway through The Long Mars and I'm STILL expecting her to pop up and say "surprise"!