'The Explorer' by James Smythe (who sounds like such a nice man from the article about book sales on his website) was not really my cup of tea. I am still trying to review everything, more to record its passing through my hands than to tell you not to bother with it ... it might be just your kind of thing after all. It is an outer space exploration story that turns into something much more weird. I thought initially it was going to be a bit like 'The Martian' but it was quite different. It hops backwards and forwards in time, telling you how he applies to go on this deep space voyage and about the build up to their departure, the other people who are going too and then the breakup of his relationship with Elena. For all their psychological evaluations they still seemed to manage to send a really messed up bunch of people into space. I think I didn't like it because the plot seemed really weak; merely "going further" than any manned exploration had gone before seemed a distinctly pointless exercise. As the blurb informs you the crew die in a series of freak events and our hero Cormac finds himself alone on a ship that fails to make the scheduled turnaround when it reaches the outer limit of the voyage. Being merely a journalist he has no skills to deal with the technicalities (unlike our Martian) and so is something of a victim of circumstances. I don't want to spoil the plot for any potential readers so I'll just say that things are not as they seem and it reminded me of the scene at the end of the film 'Interstellar' (which equally annoyed me, but for different reasons), except I saw this coming. Yet again, the lack of decent female characters annoyed me, it often seems like a lack of imagination. Having said that it was well written enough for me to persevere with it, so I won't dismiss the experience completely. There are no aliens or fancy technology but if sci-fi is your thing then you will probably enjoy.
"Usually I set up the connection but this time Guy takes charge, like photographer in the olden days, lining up the shot, standing behind the camera to make sure we all look good. 'This will be the last time they see our faces for a good long while,' he says, 'you want to make sure you look your best for it. Smile. Look happy.' We do. 'Hey, remember what's important,' he says. 'We're intrepid, right?' He says the word like it doesn't fit into his mouth, into the repertoire of his language." (p.162-3)