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The Explorer by [Smythe, James]
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The Explorer Kindle Edition

3.5 out of 5 stars 109 customer reviews

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Review

"Beautifully written, creepy as hell. The Explorer is as clever in its unravelling as it is breathlessly claustrophobic."--Lauren Beukes, author of Zoo City

"Science fiction is best when it does what we least expect, when it transforms narrative into something you don't see coming....It's a trick not every writer can master, but Smythe makes a marvel of this world, and these characters, and makes this reader want the sequel now."--Romantic Times BOOKclub (Top Pick!)

"The Explorer is smart, scary and seductive. Like its protagonist, it explores the queasy strangeness of space-time, and puts the reader at the heart of a tale of watching and fearing that comes off like a collaboration between Hitchcock and Heinlein. Excellent stuff."--Lloyd Shepherd, author of The English Monster

"Dark, cold, claustrophobic, and oh so very scary. THE EXPLORER is literary science fiction at its blackest best."--Adam Christopher, author of Empire State and Seven Wonders

"The Explorer is essentially exemplary: a short, sharp shock of a story from an author who deserves to do as well for himself as he does by us. It's perfectly plotted, smartly characterised and rife with insight and excitement."--Tor.com

"This is a remarkable book: a state-of-the-art spacecraft constructed from ideas, and propelled by a powerful story. Gripping, terrifying and audacious--an exploration in every sense of the word."--Charles Yu, author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe

"A challenging and stimulating read."--Booklist

"There have been teachers in space, senators, and the wealthy who buy tickets. But never has a journalist been launched over the atmosphere. Until Smythe's gripping novel."--New York Post

"A] mind-bending, heart-wrenching, avalanche of a reading experience... an oasis for readers thirsty to find an engaging book... books like this are the kind that create fans, and I'm proud to be one."--SF Signal

"The first person perspective and unpretentious prose style are enhanced by accomplished pacing."--SFX (UK)

"The Explorer by James Smythe is quiet, dark book which focuses on the dark and quiet of space....It may not be a flashy...but it is a fascinating character study that could only exist in a science-fictional world."--io9.com

"A brilliant book -- funny, desperate, desolate, sad, all in equal measure."--Chuck Wendig

"Unsettling."--Daily Telegraph (London)

"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

"A wonderful examination of coping with loss, time and death."--SFX

"As if Philip K Dick and David Mitchell collaborated on an episode of The West Wing. Unsettling, gripping and hugely thought-provoking."--FHM

There have been teachers in space, senators, and the wealthy who buy tickets. But never has a journalist been launched over the atmosphere. Until Smythe s gripping novel. --New York Post"

The Explorer by James Smythe is quiet, dark book which focuses on the dark and quiet of space .It may not be a flashy but it is a fascinating character study that could only exist in a science-fictional world. --io9.com"

Beautifully written, creepy as hell. The Explorer is as clever in its unravelling as it is breathlessly claustrophobic. --Lauren Beukes, author of Zoo City"

This is a remarkable book: a state-of-the-art spacecraft constructed from ideas, and propelled by a powerful story. Gripping, terrifying and audacious--an exploration in every sense of the word. --Charles Yu, author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe"

Science fiction is best when it does what we least expect, when it transforms narrative into something you don t see coming .It s a trick not every writer can master, but Smythe makes a marvel of this world, and these characters, and makes this reader want the sequel now. --Romantic Times BOOKclub (Top Pick!)"

The Explorer is smart, scary and seductive. Like its protagonist, it explores the queasy strangeness of space-time, and puts the reader at the heart of a tale of watching and fearing that comes off like a collaboration between Hitchcock and Heinlein. Excellent stuff. --Lloyd Shepherd, author of The English Monster"

Dark, cold, claustrophobic, and oh so very scary. THE EXPLORER is literary science fiction at its blackest best. --Adam Christopher, author of Empire State and Seven Wonders"

The Explorer is essentially exemplary: a short, sharp shock of a story from an author who deserves to do as well for himself as he does by us. It s perfectly plotted, smartly characterised and rife with insight and excitement. --Tor.com"

A challenging and stimulating read. --Booklist"

A] mind-bending, heart-wrenching, avalanche of a reading experience an oasis for readers thirsty to find an engaging book books like this are the kind that create fans, and I m proud to be one. --SF Signal"

The first person perspective and unpretentious prose style are enhanced by accomplished pacing. --SFX (UK)"

A brilliant book funny, desperate, desolate, sad, all in equal measure. --Chuck Wendig"

Unsettling. --Daily Telegraph (London)"

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"

A wonderful examination of coping with loss, time and death. --SFX"

As if Philip K Dick and David Mitchell collaborated on an episode of The West Wing. Unsettling, gripping and hugely thought-provoking. --FHM"

About the Author

James Smythe is the winner of the Wales Fiction Book of the Year 2013, and was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award 2014. He is the author of The Testimony, The Machine and No Harm Can Come To A Good Man, as well as The Anomaly Quartet, which currently includes the novels The Explorer and The Echo. James lives in London and teaches creative writing. He can be found on Twitter @jpsmythe


Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 665 KB
  • Print Length: 273 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Voyager (20 Dec. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008EEZ6VC
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars 109 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #146,474 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
James Smythe is a talented author - "The Machine" was one of my favourite books in 2014 so I was looking forward to reading this book.

Firstly the good parts...

It is an interesting story. I enjoyed the quiet dreamy claustrophobic feel to it, and the twists and turns along the way. It made me think about the ending for some time afterwards so it was successful in that respect.

However...

The science in the book was sub-par. If you can manage to watch Hollywood sci-fi films without cringing then maybe you won't notice, but I expect more from sci-fi books where the author has the time to explain and not take short cuts.

Here is a quote talking about the space craft travelling in vacuum, "The engines have smaller engines facing the opposite direction that fire for a single burst to slow the craft down, otherwise the momentum would be tremendous and we’d never get to leave the ship. After they’ve fired, there’s a fifteen-minute wait for the ship’s hull to cool". I won't pick through that as I don't want to turn this review into a physics lecture, but if that kind of thing bothers you, then there is a lot of it in this book.

I'm going to read the next in the quartet "The Echo" with some trepidation; I'm really hoping James Smythe has had a science advisor look over the text.
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By Roman Clodia TOP 500 REVIEWER on 26 Dec. 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Sci-fi isn't my thing but I'm happy to follow James Smythe anywhere, even into outer space... This is mind-twistingly gripping with the feel of Solaris and similar 'space philosophy' type books/films. I'd actually read the sequel (The Echo) first but that deepens rather than spoils the book. Highly recommended even if space isn't your thing: 4.5 stars.
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