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Only Forward [Library Binding]

Michael Marshall Smith
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 2000 1417716142 978-1417716142
Synopsis: Stark lives in Colour, a neighbourhood whose inhabitants like to be co-ordinated with their surroundings. Then there's Red closeby - if you want to see a tactical nuclear battle recreated as a sales demonstration. Stark has friends in Red, which is just as well because something is about to happen.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details


Product Description

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.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unusual and Original June 30 2004
By Aimee
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I debated about what rating to give this book because even now, a few years after I first read it, I'm still not sure whether I liked it or not. I can say this with absolute honesty -- it is one of the strangest books I have ever read.
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.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Not for those who seek happy ending! Feb. 15 2003
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Starting with very original ideas the author takes us to a new Earth where hi-tech and violence intermix together to provide a futuristic story.
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)!
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4.0 out of 5 stars 3 Stars for Story + 1 for Creativity Sept. 25 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This story is a rarefied view of what might happen as culture degenerates into hundreds of separate world views. The narrator's name, Stark, was short for stark-raving-mad. Each of the other characters represented a turn in the maze which drove Stark insane. Jeamland, as a transition way station to his many future pocket universes, was packed full of possibilities for creating a complex character. Stark was not one man but a series of Russian doll selves, each representing a period in his growth from childhood. As to the mystery element, yes, at first the reader wonders in what direction the story will turn next but finally realizes that it doesn't matter at all. The most daring insight presented is the discovery that molecular computers are churning out the bits of data that makes up Stark's brutal existence. Once Stark's mind leaps through the Jeamland portal into the future there is no return to either sanity or the present.
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.
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Format:Mass Market Paperback
No review of Only Forward would be complete without mentioning the word "surreal," so I'd just like to get that out of the way up front. But there's a differnece between surreal and wack, and Smith has wack down to a science.
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.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars my favourite escape
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 more
Published on July 2 2012 by canadianmirth
2.0 out of 5 stars overrated
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 more
Published on June 30 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Entertaining.
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 more
Published on May 25 2004 by "mad2rite"
5.0 out of 5 stars His Best Work
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
2.0 out of 5 stars Can you call this a book?
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 more
Published on Nov. 22 2003 by Jorge Frid
3.0 out of 5 stars Really good - and yet not
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 more
Published on April 18 2003 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book
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 by "www_rawolution_com"
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this novel
Michael Marshall Smith is one off the greatest and most inovative writers I have ever had the plesure to read. Read more
Published on April 21 2002 by krystel hewett
5.0 out of 5 stars You won't forget this book
Gripping from the first page, this classy and unique combination of speculative fiction, adventure, and thriller will keep the reader's attention. Read more
Published on July 11 2001 by D. P. Strunk
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