by James Smythe
Published by Harper Voyager
Hardback - 9780007456758
Last year, I read James Smythe's The Testimony and I enjoyed it. Over the Christmas holidays I read his next novel, The Explorer and found it fascinating. The Explorer is one of those books that perfectly straddles both literary fiction and science fiction. This book is gripping, terrifying and compelling.
I don't want to give too much away with regards to the plot - all I can say is that Cormac (Is his name a nod to the writer Cormac McCarthy - I think it is - definitely an influence on Smythe's writing style) is a journalist aboard the 'Ishiguro' (another nod to another author who seems to have influenced Smythe's writing), a corporate run mission to go farther in space than any other manned-mission. All of the crew members except Cormac die within the first chapter. This may sound like a typical psychological science fiction plot but you would wrong. I thought that but the rest of the book changed my mind.
The Explorer is not only a book about exploring unknown space but it is also about exploring the human mind and the concepts of time, loss and death. Through out the book there is a sense of unease as the plot unravels, ravels and unravels. The reader becomes trapped within the mind of Cormac as he tries to cope with isolation and tries to deal with his purpose or lack of purpose on the mission, as well as his purpose in life. All he has to keep him company are the video clips of his dead crew members and photographs and clips of his wife.
The Testimony is huge in scope, has an ensemble cast of characters who are still connect to life and spreads its net over a huge area while The Explorer has one protagonist, is claustrophobic, contained and isolated. With The Testimony it was easy to put down as each section had a different character while The Explorer holds on to you until the very end. It was very hard to put down The Explorer as you want to know what happens next. There is no way you can guess the next twist in the plot!
The Explorer would appear to people who love the film, Moon, enjoy the concepts of The Time Traveler's Wife and enjoy character-based science fiction, like Cormac McCarthy's The Road or Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go.
I came across this quote while on Goodreads while I was reading The Explorer and it reminded me of the book:
"Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying." - Arthur C. Clarke
You can buy a hardback or ebook copy of The Explorer from your favourite online or offline bookshop.
Thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy.