Book Review

The Edge by James Smythe

Years ago, a vast and mysterious object known as the Anomaly was discovered in deep space. All missions to explore and explain it failed.

Now, the Anomaly has almost reached Earth, threatening to swallow the planet whole. On an orbital research station, a team of scientists desperately search for a way to stop it or destroy it.

One of the crew, Ali, has lost faith in the mission. Following the death of a close friend, her only interest is returning to the ground – to her young son. But strange events, both inside the station and in the void beyond, force Ali to pursue a new mystery. And as the truth starts to make itself clear, as deadly secrets are uncovered, Ali is forced to ask if she can trust anybody: her crewmates, her friends… even herself.

I’m a huge fan of this series which started with The Explorer and continued with The Echo.  One element that I’ve really enjoyed so far is that each one has a different cast of characters and a slightly different vibe to it, all united by the as yet unexplained Anomaly.  Each one builds upon the last – I know a little more now than I did at the end of the last novel – and so I do recommend reading these novels in order and from the beginning.  I’m not sure you’d get as much out of them by starting part way through the series. 

The Edge sees the Anomaly much closer to Earth than in the first two novels, and something that’s now in the knowledge of the general population, rather than just the scientists and astronauts who’ve made a study of it.  Of course, this has led to a new religious fervour in some individuals on Earth – some from a sense of wonder, others from a feeling of existential dread and a fear of the unknown, others because they can profit from it.  I enjoyed seeing the perspective of those on Earth, albeit a step removed. It’s something that wasn’t present in the first two novels and adds a little something extra, and the religious aspect provides an interesting counterpoint to the scientific nature of these novels.  I think it also allows the reader to consider how they might react in such a situation.  I can’t imagine ever taking part in a space mission (I’m sure Cormac Easton felt similarly at one point) but I can imagine the sense of impending doom that something like the Anomaly might evoke. 

On an orbital research station, a handful of scientists are desperately trying to understand the Anomaly – what it is, and what harm it might do should it come closer to and / or envelope Earth.  This project is led by none other than Tomas Hyvönen, who we did meet, briefly, in The Echo.  The main protagonist, however, is Ali.  An engineer, she wants nothing more than to return home to her young son, Theo.  While I don’t want to go into the plot in too much detail, events aboard the research station become increasingly odd, and Ali is witness to events that the others categorically deny. There’s clearly something not quite right, but that’s par for the course with this series, and when the answers came, it wasn’t at all what I was expecting.

As with previous instalments, we see Ali’s background and the events that led to her current situation.  This includes her relationship with Xavier – a difficult relationship that took its toll in many ways.  Xavier seems to be a deeply unpleasant individual from Ali’s perspective, and while I had my suspicions as to what was going on, it’s not confirmed until later in the novel.  I think that this history – combined with the events on board the research station – works well to cast a hint of doubt on Ali’s narration.  She’s clearly under a lot of strain , and while I wanted to believe Ali and her version of events, I wasn’t wholly convinced that I should. It’s a tense psychological element that works brilliantly.

Being a James Smythe novel, nothing is quite as straightforward or as obvious as it seems, and The Edge is another weird, wonderful, and brilliantly dark instalment in this fantastic sci fi / horror series. Three books into the quartet, there are plenty of unanswered questions, but also some hints of where the story may go next in the final instalment, and I cannot wait.

The Anomaly Quartet

  1. The Explorer
  2. The Echo
  3. The Edge

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