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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Memserising, haunting sci-fi
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',...
Published 12 months ago by Russell Smith

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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A decent read if you fancy something a little dark and different
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...
Published 17 months ago by lmhh


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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A decent read if you fancy something a little dark and different, 15 Nov 2012
By 
lmhh (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Explorer (Hardcover)
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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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Memserising, haunting sci-fi, 16 April 2013
By 
Russell Smith "egobreed" (Glasgow, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Explorer (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unsettling and intriguing... with [what could be] a brilliant twist in the middle!, 30 Dec 2013
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This review is from: The Explorer (Paperback)
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A nightmare in space, 6 Oct 2013
This review is from: The Explorer (Paperback)
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. Although not exactly a happy tale, this intensely claustrophobic timewarp story is more and more gripping as it goes on, and thankfully comes to an ultimately satisfying conclusion. A nightmare in space, and in spite of the obvious improbabilities that are inherent in such a story, I swallowed it whole and simply didn't want to finish it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clever and compelling., 20 April 2013
By 
Lily (Sheffield UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Explorer (Hardcover)
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Groundhog day in space with sinister twists and the capacity to set you off trying to work out what is happening. The story 'ends' in the first chapter or so. Really makes you wonder where this is this going. Clever unveiling of the events with the lead character trying, as the reader is, to make sense of his situation. Even the side-story involving the lead character's wife, which appears to be somewhat superfluous and annoying at first, meshes into the reveal regarding why Cormac Easton was chosen for the voyage. Hard going to start with because of the conundrum set-up early on but well written and rewarding if you stick with it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Meditation On Free Will And Destiny, 4 April 2013
By 
Karl Gallagher "Lugodoc" (Portsmouth UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Explorer (Kindle Edition)
The space science in this novel is terrible (as a ten year old I would have picked holes in this) but as a study of human nature it is fascinating and compelling. The plot is convoluted but hangs together - kept my interest till the last page.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Loneliest Boy In The Universe, 28 Mar 2013
By 
Bela Lugosi's Dad "Bela Lugosi's Dad" (Kent, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Explorer (Hardcover)
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James Smythe is definitely a talent. I found his earlier novel, The Testimony, difficult to get into for the first fifty pages or so, until my reading ears became attuned to the multiute of different narrative voices, from that point on I was gripped and finished the rest of the book in a day.
The Explorer shares certain themes with The Testimony - man's striving to understand what lies beyond this, the short life span that he has been arbitrarily allotted - but it's a bit meaner, more like a good hard punch on the guts than the slow water torture of The Testimony. Most scifi writing is so derivative of what has gone before, so dependant on the cliches of the genre that it's a joy to have somebody like Smythe approaching story from a different, oblique angle. This is a bit like early Robert Heinlein with an editorial assist by Samuel Beckett. It'll make you think, it'll get you a bit upset. you'll be wondering when the next book is coimg out. These are all good things.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly Gripping, 8 Jan 2013
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This review is from: The Explorer (Paperback)
I read this in one sitting. Can't remember the last time I did that. From the word go I wanted to know what had happened and what was gonig to happen to Cormac. At no point did it release it's grip. It's not only addictive, atmospheric and thoughtful, it's also cleverly constructed and beautifully written. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Major Tom to Ground Control, 20 Dec 2012
By 
Quicksilver (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Explorer (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. It's the closest thing I have seen in literature to a 'Sixth Sense' type reveal, that will have you thumbing back through the book, to check all the pieces were there. I can assure you they are, and you won't quite believe you missed them. Things are even left open for a sequel, and such is the open nature of the tale, it could be taken in any number of directions. I can't wait to see which one the author chooses.

If The Testimony marked James Smythe as an author to watch, then the Explorer demands that he is one to follow. An excellent novel.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not for me; might be for you, 19 Feb 2013
By 
Ian Hocking "author" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Explorer (Hardcover)
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. I found all this very difficult.

- The plot. For me, this was too tightly focused on the perspective of a single character and I didn't find him interesting enough. Again, if you find him interesting in the extract, maybe you'll like the rest of the book.

- The protagonist. He doesn't do very much, and I found myself trying to work out why he didn't. This was frustrating.

Overall, this isn't a bad book. It has strong overtones of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Duncan Jones's Moon - if you like those movies, you might well enjoy this one, though I found that the comparison wasn't good for The Explorer. It is particularly introspective, so beware of this if the blurb gave you the impression (as it gave me) that the story will be more eventful.
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The Explorer
The Explorer by James Smythe (Paperback - 29 Aug 2013)
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