EXPLORE Outer Space in Smythe’s Intense Thriller

In this day and age, it seems that a book about space exploration would be dull when there are plenty of incredible space films that you’d rather be seeing (Gravity, Sunshine, Alien, Prometheus—yes, I liked Prometheus). But James Smythe’s incredible Anomaly Quartet proves that space literature isn’t dead.
The first installment, The Explorer, follows journalist Cormac on the first space expedition in decades, treating the entire endeavor like a reality TV stunt. The crew will be traveling to the farthest point man has ever traveled in space, hoping to reinvigorate the world’s desire for space travel after a disastrous expedition all but killed the global space craze. But this hopeful quest turns out to be a disaster as well. For, as we learn in the opening 50 pages, that Cormac is all alone on the ship, his fellow crew members having all died off (each in their own dramatic way, which he quickly recaps).
But there was also a secondary reason for this expedition. Scientist Guy has devoted his life to researching an anomaly he’s found in distant space, and this expedition will give him the opportunity to see it firsthand and potentially send some answers back to Earth. While things for Guy don’t turn out so well, Cormac inadvertently learns a few things about the mysterious anomaly.
Smythe packs his novel with mind-bending twists and the eerie kind of paranoia that can only be found in deep space. But he also works in an emotional through-line for Cormac that packs it’s own little punch. The Explorer’s revelations make you want to relieve the book a second time upon completing. And when you’ve gotten as much as you can out of The Explorer, check out the recently released second installment The Echo (which is an incredible novel in its own right).


More Post-Apocalyptic Worry Abounds in THE YEAR OF THE FLOOD

yearofthefloodThe second installment in the MaddAddam trilogy, The Year of the Flood, runs parallel with the events of Oryx and Crake. The novel follows young Ren and aging Toby as they struggle in the post-apocalyptic society, looking for other survivors. Just as in the first novel, their pasts are revealed through extensive flashbacks, giving us a broader view of the world outside the Healthwyzer compound (which we saw a lot of in Oryx and Crake).
The first novel dealt a mostly with science and Crake’s motivation for creating a “perfect” species. Flood deals with the religious aspects of the world. Both Ren and Toby spend time with the God’s Gardeners cult, the fanatics behind the creation of MaddAddam. Both women’s live crossover into Jimmy’s narrative, popping up at recognizable moments from Oryx and Crake. Ren, especially, is so interwoven into Jimmy’s life you almost feel the urge to reread his account. But as the novel reaches its thrilling conclusion, catching up with Jimmy’s final moments from before, you’ll feel an even more pressing urge to jump into MaddAddam.
Atwood’s skilled writing is further exemplified in this novel. She incorporates her poetry background into the hymns that the Gardeners sing. She also intriguingly jumps between first person for Ren’s story and third person for Toby’s. Her world building for this trilogy is astounding, and Flood will continue to put you on edge with the frightening prescience of the culture and events in the novel.

Enjoy a Full Dose of Post-Apocalyptic Worry with ORYX AND CRAKE

On the coast of North America (just north of New New York), Snowman (formerly Jimmy) keeps a semi-watchful eye over a group of genetically superior—yet psychologically simple—beings, called Crakers. He finds it difficult to explain to them the significance of various debris they find that existed before them—a hubcap, a computer mouse, a piano key. But such artifacts spur memories of his life before and the deification of the two people closest to him: Oryx and Crake.

81PBOoxlI4L._SL1500_Oryx and Crake is the first installment in Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy and sets up a post-apocalyptic future that is frightening because it seems like it could happen very soon. Crake’s quest for the perfect genetically engineered “human” takes him down a rabbit hole of extremes, and his best friend Jimmy does not realize how far Crake is willing to go until it is too late. The world of scientific compounds and ghettoized pleeblands resemble many other dystopic/apocalyptic stories, but the world of Oryx and Crake appears so much more real (the advances in science are not far off from what the world is currently working on) that it becomes imminently more frightening.

I should not have to tell you that Atwood’s writing is superb—she’s one of the greatest living writers (and most likely the greatest Canadian writer ever). If you’ve never read her stuff, start out with The Handmaid’s Tale (required reading in Canadian high schools) before delving into this trilogy. And if you’re already familiar with her work, then now is the time to grab Oryx and Crake since the final novel in the trilogy, MaddAddam, has just been released.