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The Explorer

by James Smythe

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25813101,786 (3.25)24
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.
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» See also 24 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
I originally read this in 2017 and was very underwhelmed, rating this 3 stars. I don't know what's changed since then, but upon re-read this was a four and a half star read.

I did listen to this on audio this time around, and I think Rich Keeble did an excellent job narrating it, which might be a pretty big contributing factor (especially considering the sometimes very stream of consciousness writing style of the book.) In my original review, I'd also commented on the author's abuse of the semicolon (pretty much my least favorite punctuation mark in books) which is a lot easier to live with when you don't actually have to witness it on the page.

I still got snagged on the logic of the central plot device, but I also knew beforehand not to focus on that aspect too much, as it annoyed the shit out of me last time (particularly the ending).

I truly did enjoy this a lot more this time around, though, and I feel a lot better about re-reading The Echo. I got started on this re-read because I recently realized the whole Quartet is now finished, so hopefully I won't be disappointed with the rest of the books. ( )
  tuusannuuska | Dec 1, 2022 |
Unusual writing style; every character dies in a spaceship in the first few pages, then the story is repeated for the rest of the book, as it were in slow motion. There is a particular passage the author wrote on what being in space does to the human mind that I enjoyed and found to be philosophically insightful. Looking forward to the next book in this quartet.
SPOLIER: Describes a mission into space to go further than anyone had gone before, but the journalist on board discovers a deliberate sabotage by the leading scientist crew member to make it a one-way journey to study the anomaly. When the ship reaches the anomaly, time loops and a doppelganger is created, and the journalist witnesses himself react as the crew die off . He questions the act of intervention. ( )
  AChild | Nov 27, 2022 |
Marketed as a stand-alone novel, James Smythe's The Explorer is in fact the start of a proposed run-of-the-mill sci-fi quartet concerning the 'Anomaly', something that is sketchily introduced towards the end of this first instalment. The book can stand alone, structurally speaking (which is fortunate, as I have no intention of reading further) but it reads like the prologue of a story stretched out to its own novel length. It's a recipe, if not for failure, then at least for tedium.

Partly this tedium comes from the shallowness of the concept; it is all so vaguely done. The 'anomaly' remains a loose MacGuffin, and the motive behind the mission of the spaceship Ishiguro (itself a poor name for such a ship) is lame and impractical (pg. 169). The wishy-washy approach continues into the weak characterisation. We are told this is a bold mission into the unknown, but the crew is cobbled together and do not seem suitable for their tasks. "Look, fucking deal with it", crew members say to one another when they come to each other with problems (pg. 114), and that's when they're not sleeping with one another, plotting, or having angsty hang-ups about things back home (and this is right from the start of their training – not after the mission unravels). None are trained to even basic competence in each other's roles. There's no verisimilitude whatsoever, and because the reader cannot buy into the story it becomes a slog. This is made worse by the fact that the protagonist/narrator is an unlikeable bore; "this is all about me," he writes on page 177, and unfortunately, he's right. The author tries tricks to keep us reading by drip-feeding superficial revelations about the crew, and it works, sort of – it must do, because I finished it. But, as I said, a more merciful writer would have made all of this merely a prologue to a greater story.

In The Explorer, Smythe proves to be a writer who can put words on the page – but not judiciously. The book rambles and splutters along, and the author's laboured approach is made all the starker by the fact that the protagonist is meant to be a journalist, someone with a facility for words. (A journalist cherry-picked for this elite assignment, no less). The grammar and sentence construction are poor and seem unrevised ("the rest of us crewmates questioned the choice" (pg. 115)). Smythe's time loop idea is poorly handled in a narrative sense, and his understanding of spacetime superficial. He makes even virgin space exploration sound boring, and the book limps to its end. There's no real resolution, or answers to the mysteries posed. It's a set-up to a wider idea, but strung out interminably. Frankly, the author's reach vastly exceeds his grasp, and the book is a misfire. ( )
  MikeFutcher | Jan 14, 2020 |
This was weak compared to the the Machine, lacking its brutish power... ( )
  AlanPoulter | Feb 6, 2017 |
Good premise but the book just dragged. ( )
  gregandlarry | Mar 14, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
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One of the first things I did when I realized that I was never going to make it home - when I was the only crewmember left, all the others stuffed into their sleeping chambers like rigid, vacuum-packed action figures - was to write up a list of everybody I would never see again; let me wallow in it, swim around in missing them as much as I could.
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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.

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