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The Explorer (The Anomaly Quartet) Paperback – January 2, 2013
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“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)
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Top Customer Reviews
This book is essentially a "haunted house" story, and with minimal modification could have been a horror story, a ghost story, etc. Good SF needs solid world building and if there is a mystery, explain it to the satisfaction of the reader. None of that happens here. The logic of the trip is deeply flawed, as are the differing scenarios for the outcome. The ship itself makes no sense to me, engines that can be turned on an off, gravity that can only be turned on when when the engines are off. Distances that make no sense - is the ship near earth, in the the solar system, well beyond it - I've no idea, and neither, I suspect, does Smythe. As for a ship that needs to be "turned around", that should imply a lot about the velocity, not to mention the mission plan.
So the science is juvenile. What is much better are the characters them selves although apart from the main protagonist, they seem a bit sketchy. Even the protagonist's wife, who you might suspect would be well understood. But for me, the problem is that the characters don't seem to be engaged with the purpose of the flight. They act more like strangers thrown together and to be subject to events, just like a murder mystery story. But unlike a group of people alone, the crew has contact with Mission Control who, rather inexplicably don't take any reasonable actions to save the crew.
In summary, ss an SF reader, this book fell far short of my expectations of a "good SF" story. You can read far better SF exploring similar circumstances by Peter Watts.
On the surface, The Explorer seems to be a slim Sci-Fi adventure but within thirty or so pages the story becomes one about humans - how fragile we are and how our minds cope within our own existence. Without spoiling the twists, it's fair to say that Cormac is a troubled soul. As he narrates his own story and we are given glimpses into his mind we're shown a terrifying experience. It's not a psychological horror, but if you walk away without feeling a little disquieted I'd be surprised.
James explores the concept of space beautifully and in various aspects. Cormac is often in awe of the inky darkness that surrounds him and often expresses his thoughts on looking back at Earth and how small it is. There's a beauty there, but it doesn't come without the fear of human insignificance. Not just in the scope and size of universe but in how constricted we are as a species now that much of our world has been explored. It's an almost philosophical novel without being smacked in the face by ponderous thoughts. The reader is left feeling the same constrictions as Cormac and the crew.
For me, the title is reflected in many ways, not just in the exploration of space but of ourselves.Read more ›
It is good to know that classic-style "trips into outer space" novels are still being written. This one, however, sits well even outside that comfortable box. It could make a fascinating movie.
And what if you are the apparent last survivor of what could be a historic voyage into that vastness of outer space? How would you cope?
This is a tricky, but eerily wonderful, scifi tale of what could have been a simple straightforward "take a ship into outer space to find--something, anything, or not and then report back." But the tale is far more than that, and far more than "how do you cope if you are the last survivor of the trip". Both elements make up part of this story, but the story consists of far more. It is an intriguingly told first-person perspective with a few surprises and twists along the journey. It may also at times not be an easy story to read, but it is worth sticking with.
The title specifically refers to the main character, Cormac, a journalist who is one of the crew of this trip into outer space. The entire voyage of course is intended as one of exploration, as assumedly, humanity has not been into outer space as yet when the story takes place. The idea for the voyage is that they will go as far as they can, see what they can, and then turn around and report back. Things do not go according to the best-laid plans, as usual, especially in outer space. The story does not end where one thinks it might end. The tale seems occasionally claustrophobic--there is no place to go except different parts of the ship--they don't land on asteroids, nor do they see planetoids or such. The ship is Cormac's world.
Does Cormac ever find anything out in space?
Read the book and decide for yourself.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book is amazing. I randomly found this while searching around on amazon, and even with the low amount of reviews i gave it a shot. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Brandon
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100 word review: The Explorer, by James Smythe
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This book started out as an OK space adventure, and then by Part Two it became something I was not expecting in a good way.Published 9 months ago by Kat
It saddens me to be entirely negative about a book but there really isn’t much I can think of that redeems THE EXPLORER. Read morePublished 11 months ago by sft
I am struggling to write this review because The Explorers, by James Smythe, is one of those books that is definitely greatly enhanced by going into it blind. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Crystal Durnan
Space is always interesting. This novel kept me interested throughout. I plan on reading the sequel. I need to find out more about the anomaly.Published 12 months ago by Brad James
By the end of the book, you will be totally in sync with the narrator. Bored to death, toothless, and hoping for a quick ending that never seems to come, making the spaceship of... Read morePublished 16 months ago by Alain Roy
Was promised a good twist at the end but was utterly disappointed when I found out what it was. An overly wordy book that I forced myself to finish.Published 17 months ago by David Scroggs
Somewhat interesting and definitely different, but the author's incredible lack of scientific knowledge is a big distraction. Read morePublished 18 months ago by RichieRich