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From Publishers Weekly
The dazzling pyrotechnics of British author Smith's last two future noir spectacles, Spares (under option to DreamWorks) and One of Us (under option to Warner Brothers), are prefigured in his promise-filled debut novel, a 1994 U.K. paperback original now seeing its first hardcover publication. Set in a stylized future City where individuals live in neighborhoods organically responsive to their moods and lifestyles, the story begins as a routine missing persons case for its narrator, Stark, an irreverent soft-boiled detective type who specializes in "finding people, or things." Stark's retrieval of Fell Alkland, a scientist who has fled the driven environment of Action Center for the placid Stable neighborhood, proves relatively easy. But pursuit by Action Center operatives and Alkland's crippling work-related nightmares force Stark and his quarry to escape to Jeamland, a collective repository of dreams and childhood memories that Stark appears to know very well, and to which, as he discovers only belatedly, he has been lured back deliberately. The genius of Smith's narrative is its casual revelation that the detective scenario and detailed elaborations of the City that pull the reader into the story are clue-filled set-ups for the real story of Stark's self-discovery in Jeamland. Ultimately, this requires chapters of explanatory exposition that slow down the finale and betray the awkwardness of a new writer growing into his skills. Nevertheless, the story blazes with a visionary intensity that fires its imagery and fuels its premise that "once you've gone forward, you can't go home again." (Dec.)Philip K. Dick award for distinguished science fiction published as a paperback original in the U.S.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
When a senior member of Action Center disappears, the authorities hire Stark to find him. Stark succeeds in his mission"and then the trouble begins. The author of Spares sets his latest sf action thriller in a color-coded near future, where independent neighborhoods vie for dominance in a dangerous and deadly high-tech world. Smith combines a whirlwind plot with a genially laconic hero to produce a fast-paced tale that belongs in large sf collections.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.
Top Customer Reviews
I liked the first half. It started out seeming like a fun hard-boiled P.I.-type novel set in a zany science fictional alternate universe, filled with action and wacky hijinks. In this world, everthing is divided into different neighborhoods. There's Action Center, where everything is all about business and being productive; Color, where artists live and experiment with, you guessed it, color; Red Neighborhood, where you can get anything you want if you've got enough money; and so on. Everyone is divided into these little sub-sections of humanity and almost no one ventures outside of their little corner of it. All you know is your Neighborhood. I liked the concept of the Neighborhoods, and the author certainly seemed to have a lot of fun with it. But that's just the tip of the iceburg.
Every other novel I've ever read follows a pattern. A roadmap, if you will. Once you've read the first few chapters, once you know what kind of book you've got, you know in general where it will end up. You may not know all the twists and turns of the plot, but you're familiar with the general landscape. Not so with _Only Forward_. This book ended in a completely different place than it began. It began with wacky hijinks and wisecracking P.I.s, but it ended...somewhere else entirely. I don't what to be more specific than that, so I don't spoil it for unsuspecting readers out there. I'm still not sure if I'm glad I went there, but it was interesting, without a doubt. Original, unquestionably. Intense, with plenty of food for thought.Read more ›
It starts with promising prolong that somehow keeps you tuned up through the first half of the book. Through out this first half, Michael Smith builds very interesting and deep characters. Each of these characters has his/her own complicated personality and life story. Except of few unreasonable facts - that I could not really accept - the story builds good tension and is mind provoking.
Then, somewhere around the middle of the book Michael Smith makes a sharp turn and changes this sci-fi story to something more like 'Alice in Wonderland'. I found this very annoying and hard to accept. Still I kept on reading as I was really attached to the characters and HAD to know their destiny.
This book deserves two stars for the plot and two stars for Michael Smith's polished, unique and fun writing style. Ideas are clearly conveyed, human life and survival is always at the center of events and day-to-day thoughts are brilliantly woven into the story line (in a rather compelling way)!
The exposition revealed in chapters 21-2 belonged in the opening to this weird tale. The reader deserved to know outright that Jeamland was a mind portal leading to the far distant future. The happy ending demanded by Hollywood agents was not convincing. The division of this future City into unique, idiosyncratic neighborhoods was very creative. Smith envisions the future as made up of pockets of people who shared similar neurosis and psychosis. The novel was a collection of a hundred short stories stitched together by the mind of the narrator Stark. I read it thinking: so much more could have been done with this material.
Smith is from Britain, so it's understandable that there might be some British slang in. But making the slang contemporary throws the reader off a bit (since it's ostensibly set in the future, see). On top of that, I was reading an American edition of the book, so many (although not all) of the Britishisms were Americanized. The final result is a book written in partially Americanized contemporary British slang, which leaves no room for doubt as to which side of the 'wack' line this book falls.
Another hallmark of reviews of these sorts of books is the phrase, 'I don't want to give anything away, but...' There's so much going on in this book that it's hard not to. I'll do my best to keep revelations to a minimum, but read no further than this paragraph if you want to stay spoiler-free. The short answer is that this book is great. If you love science fiction, this'll be a keeper.
So, quick and dirty introduction: Stark, the book's narrator, is a sort of a futuristic hard-boiled private eye. He's got contacts everywhere, he's 100% sure of himself at all times, and he seemingly can get any job done no matter how unusual. His speciality, apparently, is finding lost people, which brings us to this story wherein things don't go quite as they'd been planned. Enh, gotta have conflict somewhere, right?
Smith paints an unusual world in this future Earth. Most of the land is covered by The City which is, itself, divided into Neighbourhoods, each of which has its own rules and regulations.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Permanently outside the box. Wholly unique. You will not read a story like this again. I recommend this book to everyone.Published 11 months ago by TemetNosce73
Every time I pick up this book, I have to postpone all other reading until it's finished again, anticipating the adventure and world written therein. I suggested Mr. Read morePublished on July 2 2012 by canadianmirth
disclaimer: i've never written an amazon book review before. i think they're usually just fan letters and don't provide honest insight. Read morePublished on June 30 2004
If you are into science fiction you will like this book. It is a complex and rewarding story, taking you through many weird settings. Read morePublished on May 25 2004
If you're going to read one MMS book make it Only Forward. It's his most original and entertaining work.Published on Feb. 29 2004
The first part of the book is good, when Stark is looking for Alkland, but when Stark decides that Alkland has a problem with his dreams the book is boring and so it keeps till the... Read morePublished on Nov. 22 2003 by Jorge Frid
First off let me clarify one thing: This book is both science fiction and fantasy. If you're a fantasy fan, you probably won't have any trouble with this book. Read morePublished on April 18 2003 by Yet Another Amazon Customer
Friend of mine gave me this books to read. One of the best sci-fi I have ever read. Amazing story. Very close to cyberpunk kind of style.Published on Dec 2 2002