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The Explorer Hardcover – 17 Jan 2013

88 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Voyager (17 Jan. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007456751
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007456758
  • Product Dimensions: 14.1 x 2.5 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 453,541 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

James Smythe is the award-winning author of THE TESTIMONY (2012); THE EXPLORER (2013); THE MACHINE (2013), THE ECHO (2014) and NO HARM CAN COME TO A GOOD MAN (2014). Over 2015/16, he will publish all three books in his series for Young Adult readers, THE AUSTRALIA TRILOGY - starting with WAY DOWN DARK.

He currently writes a continuing series of articles for The Guardian called Rereading Stephen King and teaches Creative Writing in London. He can be found on twitter @jpsmythe.

Product Description


‘It's like an episode of Star Trek written by JM Coetzee’ Guardian

‘The Explorer has the dreamlike detachment of an Ishiguro novel…. reminiscent of a 1970s space movie, where the darkness of the void mirrors the darkness of the human soul’ Financial Times

‘Beautifully written, creepy as hell. The Explorer is as clever in its unravelling as it is breathlessly claustrophobic’ Lauren Beukes, author of The Shining Girls

'One of the most gripping novels that I've read in 2012' Starburst

'The SF novel everyone should read' Foyles

About the Author

James Smythe is the winner of the Wales Fiction Book of the Year 2013 and shortlisted nominee for the Arthur C. Clarke Award 2014. He is the author of the Anomaly Quartet which includes The Explorer and The Echo. James currently lives in London and teaches creative writing. Twitter @jpsmythe

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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Russell Smith VINE VOICE on 16 April 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It's really difficult to explain what's so great about this book without telling you the entire concept. It's about a spaceship hurtling in to deep space to inspire mankind, and how our storyteller, Cormac, quickly finds himself alone as the last survivor. So, as you can guess, it's not all lightsabers and one-liners - if anything, it has more in common with 'Moon', starring Sam Rockwell. It's meditative, contemplative, and takes you on a journey through Cormac's desperation, acceptance of his fate, even redemption, perhaps. Not for everyone, then, but if you stick with it, it'll definitely get inside your head and stay there.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Ian Hocking on 19 Feb. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is my second review of this book. When the author contacted me about the review (justifiably, perhaps, because my tone was quite negative, and I'd stopped reading the book at 37%), I removed the review and said I'd write another once I'd finished the book. Here it is.

Just to make clear: I'm also a science fiction author. I rarely write negative reviews (I can only think of two times I've done that, among scores of positive ones) because being a writer is hard enough. However, given that Smythe is published by HarperCollins, given that I'm a paying customer, and given that writers are not in competition, I feel I have the right to review it.

So: My opinion of the book has improved since I wrote my original review. If you're struggling with it too, you should consider pushing on, because much of the good (i.e. insightful/interesting) material comes towards the end of the book.

Things I liked: The book has a nicely claustrophobic air; the major plot element (which I won't reveal) is interesting.

Things I liked less:

- The prose style. In my earlier review, I called this 'first draft', which was probably unfair. I would suggest that you read an extract of the book and see what you think of it; if you don't like the style, it will probably interfere fatally with your enjoyment of the book.

- The science. For reasons I can't quite be sure about, the science (i) as understood by the protagonist and (ii) as described by him is inaccurate. For example, the hull gets hotter as the ship passes through a vacuum, where the heat-induced friction would be minimal; the ship seems to lose forward motion when its engines are stopped; communications with Earth are described sometimes with a lag and sometimes without.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Tim H. on 21 May 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm going to be frank - I bought this book in the January sale as an impulse buy, and didn't read it for 5 months, as I liked the concept, but the blurb didn't immediately pull me in. It got classified by me as one 'To read, when I've finished everything else.' I was wrong...

I started reading this book two days ago, and I finished it in 24 hours. It is genuinely a gripping read (cliched review, I know).

The narrative is complex, with information slowly being revealed over time. The best pop-culture explanation is that its like the 80s gameshow 'Catchphrase,' where the overall puzzle is initially hidden, and the mystery is slowly revealed piece by piece (although this book doesn't feature Mr. Chips in cheesy poses). However, every piece that comes makes you realise that you've been wrong about everything that you think may have been going on before.

The narrative is exceedingly clever, relying on two common but opposing sci-fi tropes (to say more would ruin major plot points), and not letting you see which one is occurring until the very last page. The book focuses more on character motivations than large scale set-pieces, but this allows a thrilling and claustrophobic read, with real character development throughout.

Definitely one of the best books I've read so far in 2015. Now excuse me, I'm going to disappear for a few days to read the next one...

(NB: I don't normally write reviews, but I saw a number of reviews about this book on this website that I didn't agree with [I haven't seen bad reviews for it anywhere else], and hoped in part to correct this. Particularly the points about the science not stacking up - these are not even noticeable, and very, very minor plot points that at no point take you out of the story [and I'm a scientific researcher at one of the top universities in the country, who usually notices these things]. Its genuinely a fantastic read, give it a go!).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Quicksilver TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 20 Dec. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
The Explorer is the second James Smythe novel I have read. The first, The Testimony, was an unusually structured 'End of Days' novel, that opens with a mysterious voice being heard across the globe. Overall the novel is a slow-burning, thoughtful meditation on the nature of faith. It is utterly compelling. The Explorer is very different yet equally captivating.

The premise is simple. Set in the near future, a manned spaceship is heading away from Earth and beyond the moon. It's boldly going to a galaxy far far... No it's not really, but it is heading deeper into the Solar system than humankind has ever been before. It is on the ultimate voyage of discovery.

From the outset this book confounded my expectations. I knew bad things would happen to the crew, but I had envisaged Smythe would treat us to a science fiction 'And Then There Were None'. So it was a great surprised when by page 11 all the crew, bar one, we're dead. How was Smythe going to fill another 250 pages with only one character? Well that, of course, would be telling.

Smythe has woven a taut psychological thriller, that draws on fear of the unknown and the debilitating effects of isolation. Once again, the author has opted for a quiet thoughtful approach rather than create the bombastic explosive story that lesser authors may have chosen. Smythe's control of the tension is, by and large, spot on. 'The Explorer' is reminiscent of Stephen King's early short fiction.

In the latter half of the book, the pace ebbs slightly, and as with 'The Testimony', I couldn't see how proceedings could be brought to a satisfactory end. I need not have worried. The novel's conclusion is expertly constructed, and the denouement jaw-dropping.
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