BOOK REVIEW: The Explorer by James Smythe
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A journalist joins a team of astronauts on an expedition to the farthest point in space humans have ever traveled. The mystery that awaits is more dangerous than trying to reach it alone.
PROS: Fascinating story; empathetic and beautiful struggle of an explorer separated from his family; epic, outer space anomaly leaves the reader burning for more
CONS: The mystery is not completely resolved.
BOTTOM LINE: The Explorer earns a “can’t miss” recommendation for its mind-bending, heart-wrenching, avalanche of a reading experience.
The Explorer is an oasis for readers thirsty to find an engaging book. Reading this story puts you in space, suspended from the back of a space ship, outside the bounds of Earth’s rescue, and watching the cord sever that will cast you off to an obscure death where even the stars don’t shine. This is the type of thrill The Explorer uses to propel the reader right from the first line. Check out this first sentence:
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.
After reading that, I thought, “How is he going to write a book after revealing that? What else is there?”
Wow, what else is there, indeed. Not only does it start with a major reveal, but there is another about 15% in that kicks the first part of the book into high gear. Not spoiling that reveal limits how much plot can be discussed, but not The Explorer‘s emotionally impacting elements which combines humanity’s innate desire to explore with the consequences doing so can have on one’s family. The main character, Cormac, has left his wife on Earth while he joins a team of astronauts on a journey farther than anyone else has ever been. His once-in-a-lifetime adventure illustrates life’s daily struggle to balance family above all else and life dreams, too. In this moral dilemma, Cormac’s story is a home run.
The book has a tight plot. I had some questions at the end, but they only marginally take away from what was a thrilling and engaging read. Not all stories require all questions to be answered, and the author did reveal on his blog that he’s written the sequel, hinting that all will be resolved after the story expands. The focus of The Explorer is showing how the mystery affects Cormac, his wife, and the crew, in an emotionally impacting display of the suffering people will put themselves through to find peace.
Similarly, books like this are the kind that create fans, and I’m proud to be one.
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