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The Explorer Paperback – 29 Aug 2013

3.5 out of 5 stars 109 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Voyager (29 Aug. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 000745676X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007456765
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 1.8 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 178,463 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

‘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’ io9.com

'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

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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