Book Reviews





The Explorer - review

I couldn’t stand to relive this trip through my own eyes, I don’t think.”

Title: The Explorer
Author: James Smythe

Publisher: Harper Voyager
Source: Purchased from Kindle Store
Buy it: Here  


Cormac Easton is a journalist in space, documenting the travels of a small crew of explorers, on a mission to simply go further than anyone else has ever been before. However, very shortly, all of his crew are dead and he is left staring into the black abyss before him, contemplating his life, his choices and his fate. However, he is not as alone as he thinks he is.


I have been intrigued by this book for so long, it's almost a travesty that I haven't read it sooner. The Explorer starts with what you would expect to be the end of a story - the deaths of all the crew of a space mission - and then continues to grip you in it's vice of suspense until the end.

Be warned, though, the suspense is not one of impending action. The Explorer is a psychological thriller in every sense. If you break down the component parts of the narrative, there are not enough events to flesh out much of a story. The book, you may think, could have been 3 times shorter. But what you will find is a character study. A man, a changing man, given the gift of hindsight and becoming something "else" - not even something better, not something more, but something just other than what he was. It is, ultimately, a very human book documenting the state of human being when it is stripped bare and alone, away from anything but the darkness, and left with nothing but it's own actions and past to keep it company.

Reading The Explorer felt like watching a film, in quite a few ways. Not least the fact that the narrator, Cormac himself, alludes to his story being made into a movie at various parts of the script. The great use of  language aligns us directly with Cormac and we see everything the way he sees it; like his eyes are the camera. The sentences build up at you and erupt suddenly in small bursts of action that are larger than without their prelude. At a number of times I felt like I was reading the accompaniment to a Woody Allen film, such are the descriptions of loneliness, introspection, self-loathing and boredom!

It is with that in mind that I would admit the book would not be for everyone. I have seen more than a few people calling The Explorer dull. I think at the end of the day it is down to personal taste, as it cannot be said that this book is badly written. I wholly enjoyed the slow build-up and the atmospheric feel of the dark and moody prose. I didn't "like" Cormac, and I think that was perfect. The finale left me wondering what happened next, but satisfied of a "right" ending.


The Explorer is not a rip-roaring romp of a Sci-Fi. It is not action packed and it isn't even very science-y. However, I found it built great, tense atmosphere, had wonderful language and was one of those introspective kind of books that you either love or hate. I loved it, and I can't wait to read more by James Smythe!


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