Book Review – The Explorer by James Smythe


Goodreads Synopsis:

A tense, claustrophobic and gripping science fiction thriller from the author of The Testimony.

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.

The crew wake from hypersleep to discover their captain dead in his allegedly fail-proof safety pod. They mourn, and Cormac sends a beautifully written eulogy back to Earth. The word from ground control is unequivocal: no matter what happens, the mission must continue.

But as the body count begins to rise, Cormac finds himself alone and spiralling towards his own inevitable death … unless he can do something to stop it.


This is a rather difficult book to review as it’s very, very easy to spoil it (indeed the majority of reviews on Goodreads spoil it without even including any warnings) and so I can’t really say too much about it.

First up, this seems to be a very polarising book. The reviews tend to either be 1-star or 5-star and I seem to be one of the few that was rather indifferent towards it. One major complaint is that it’s nothing like the synopsis I just posted above, however I feel that’s not quite accurate. The start of the novel certainly follows the synopsis with the crew slowly dying of various causes and Cormac dealing with all this. However, after a certain point the focus of the novel changes and so I think that’s where the complaints come from, but due to the nature of the story it’s difficult to give an accurate synopsis without spoiling things.

One thing that did bother me a lot was that the author gets a lot of his science really wrong which can be quite jarring and makes it hard to get lost in the plot because there’s things like “stopping the engines means they stop moving” ignoring how space actually works. If that’s something that bothers you, you’re not likely to enjoy this novel as it happens quite a lot and requires a lot of suspension of belief.

I did quite enjoy the actual story, I enjoyed the tense atmosphere of who’s going to die next and how are they going to die and each reveal was always very interesting. Obviously, I can’t say much about this for spoiler reasons but it certainly kept surprising me and was a fun read.

I’m not quite sure whether I’d recommend this, as it seems to have such different opinions. I just found out that there’s a sequel and I don’t really have any desire to read it as although I enjoyed this book, I’m still very indifferent towards it and it’s not one I’d choose to re-read. One thing I would strongly advise is to not read the reviews on Goodreads if you think you might like it as most don’t use spoiler tags.


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