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The Explorer [Paperback]

James Smythe
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
RRP: £7.64
Price: £6.39 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £10. Details
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Book Description

29 Aug 2013

A tense, claustrophobic and gripping science fiction thriller from the author of The Testimony.

When journalist Cormac Easton is selected to document the first manned mission into deep space, he dreams of securing his place in history as one of humanity’s great explorers.

But in space, nothing goes according to plan.

The crew wake from hypersleep to discover their captain dead in his allegedly fail-proof safety pod. They mourn, and Cormac sends a beautifully written eulogy back to Earth. The word from ground control is unequivocal: no matter what happens, the mission must continue.

But as the body count begins to rise, Cormac finds himself alone and spiralling towards his own inevitable death … unless he can do something to stop it.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Voyager (29 Aug 2013)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 000745676X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007456765
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 1.8 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 148,763 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

James Smythe is the author of the Wales Book Of The Year Fiction Award winner THE TESTIMONY (2012); THE EXPLORER (2013); and THE MACHINE (2013).

In January 2014, HarperCollins will publish the first sequel to THE EXPLORER, THE ECHO.

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 and Facebook.

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’ 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

‘As you marvel at this twist-laden deep-space exploration thriller, it’s hard not to draw comparisons with Duncan Jones’ film Moon’ Shortlist

‘A fascinating character study that could only exist in a science-fictional world’

'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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Memserising, haunting sci-fi 16 April 2013
By Russell Smith VINE VOICE
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
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a book based on an interesting premise. The main character, Cormac, is a journalist who joins the crew of an expedition heading deeper into space than anyone has ever been. As the expedition progresses, the other members of the crew die so Cormac is left alone, the book charting his time in space and his growing suspicion that something about the expedition is very wrong - particularly when the ship doesn't turn around as it was supposed to, and automatically head for home.

I won't give anymore of the plot away, as it would spoil it for other readers, but the development of the story is interesting and carries a real claustrophobic feel as all the action is set within the confines of the ship. Seeing developments through Cormac's eyes is also good, as you do get a sense of confusion and helplessness, which makes it quite a dark novel.

It is readable, and the quality of the writing is good. I liked the resolution, and the growing sense of awareness of what was really going on, and there isn't much technical detail in which to get bogged down. All in all a decent read.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not for me; might be for you 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I really enjoyed reading "The Explorer" and will try at writing this review without any spoilers, although it will be difficult to discuss the book and encourage you to try it without revealing anything. Well, as you have already understood from the other reviews, this is a sci-fi thriller set in the deep space - a place where no man explored and where the (very commercialised) mission on the "Ishiguro" is headed. There are a handful of people on the flight, and just one fully qualified pilot (who dies right in the beginning, when his sleeping capsule malfunctions). And then everybody else but one person dies, a journalist who was put on this mission to document the progress of the space trip. Now, no great revelations here as this will be all clear within the first couple of pages, but what follows next is quite mind-bogging.

There is not a lot of technicalities and sci-fi jargon in "The Explorer", the book is more about humanity and relationships between people, and the choices we make, all mixed up with melancholy and desperation and a lot of thought-provoking ideas. Perhaps a bit repetitive, but I am now looking into reading more books by James Smythe - what is it if not an indication that "The Explorer" was a success (with me, at least!).

I am not so keen on the conclusion - the book kinda fizzled out (and yes, the book very much reminded me of the Moon [DVD] [2009]), but I cannot stop thinking of what could be the brilliant twist which the author, James Smythe, very briefly mentions, touching on "what might have been". Indeed.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Would be so much better if the science was a match for the story...
The science in this book is really bad. I bet the author doesn't get away with such lazy research in his other books. Read more
Published 19 days ago by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars bad science, but interesting
Could not get why the main character was so uninterested in the science, indeed the actual scientific aims of the project, but there again the whole story was beset by an ignorance... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Howard
4.0 out of 5 stars A contemplative, surreal story....
A difficult book to pin down. At times it felt like a million Sci-Fi books/movies that we've all seen & read. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Sub-o
4.0 out of 5 stars If this were a film, I'd want Duncan Jones to direct it
If you asked me, and I've no reason to suppose that you wouldn't because I'm fairly anti-social and all your attempts at conversation would meet with bored glances until you got... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Theo
1.0 out of 5 stars Lacks atmosphere
Struggled with this one. Wasn't able to bond with the book at all. This is the first James Smythe book I've read having downloaded it to read on holiday (fancied a little science... Read more
Published 6 months ago by James Young
3.0 out of 5 stars Promising
I read this book as I love reading the re-reading Stephen King articles on the Guardian website. I thought the book was brilliantly written and had me hooked for about 60 pages,... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Erich Z
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant.
One of my favourite books I have read this past couple of years.
I read it assuming it not to be part of a series and came out satisfied, though there were questions... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Gary
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
I have just finished this book, which had been on my Amazon wish-list for a while after its synopsis (by intention) intrigued me enough to want to read more of what is essentially... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Kevin Snowdon
3.0 out of 5 stars sci-fi thriller
Other reviewers have described the storyline, so I will jump straight to my impressions of the book.

I enjoyed reading this book. Read more
Published 9 months ago by H. Ashford
5.0 out of 5 stars A nightmare in space
If ever you loved Hoyle's "Into Deepest Space", or Stanislaw Lem's (or Tarkovsky's) "Solaris", or Strugatsky's "Definitely Maybe", this one is for you. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Joolz
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