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Smythe, James

Entry updated 29 October 2021. Tagged: Author.

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(1980-    ) UK author who writes Young Adult fiction as J P Smythe; his first novel, Hereditation (2010) is an essentially nonfantastic Gothic set in New York. Of sf interest is The Testimony (2012), in which a Dystopian Near Future world is confronted with a seemingly irrefutable annunciation – perhaps in the very words of God, spoken deafeningly by Himself – of the End of the World; the tale is couched in bestseller or Technothriller format, with perhaps a sense of diminishing returns, as a series of narrative vignettes, where many points of view can be expressed, creating an effect of internet.panorama. His Anomaly Quartet sequence, comprising to date The Explorer (2013) and The Echo (2014), is built around the eponymous anomaly that seems to enclose Homo sapiens within flexible but ultimately impenetrable limits. Within the anomaly, initially approached by a Space Flight mission, Time Distortions (such as the first book's reiterating Time Loop) and quicksand-like shifting reality levels – mildly evocative of the no-exit labyrinth depicted in M John Harrison's minatory Kefahuchi Tract sequence – hint that we are not alone, but that we may not be in line for species Uplift. In Smythe's second singleton, The Machine (2013), a woman attempts to use an advanced Technology, housed in a large Machine, which may be able to effect some kind of meliorative rewriting of her husband's War-shattered Identity. Some of the Satire of suburban life may evoke a typical issue of Galaxy half a century ago; but Smythe's darkness of vision is perhaps more relenting. The female protagonist of I Still Dream (2018) rebels with ambivalence at the Invention in 1997 (by her father's tech firm) of a proto-AI, which as the tale advances into the Near Future seems to be becoming part of the Singularity: fortunately, Smythe pays little attention to the red herring of self-consciousness: "SCION" may not need to be conscious to take control.

The Australia sequence of Young Adult tales beginning with Way Down Dark (2015) as J P Smythe begins on the eponymous Spaceship, one of many housing the remnants of humanity who have escaped the devastation of the home planet through Climate Change and other Disasters. But human nature (see Ship of Fools), insufficiently controlled, threatens terminal chaos. [JC]

James Smythe

born London: 25 April 1980



The Anomaly Quartet

  • The Explorer (London: HarperVoyager, 2013) [Anomaly Quartet: hb/Angelo Rinaldi]
  • The Echo (London: HarperVoyager, 2014) [Anomaly Quartet: hb/Matt Richards]


  • Way Down Dark (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2015) as J P Smythe [Australia: pb/]
  • Long Dark Dusk (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2016) as J P Smythe [Australia: pb/]
  • Dark Made Dawn (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2016) as J P Smythe [Australia: pb/]

individual titles

  • Hereditation (Cardigan, Ceredigion, Wales: Parthian Books, 2010) as J P Smythe [pb/Tim Albin]
  • The Testimony (London: HarperCollins/Blue Door, 2012) [hb/uncredited]
  • The Machine (London: HarperCollins/Blue Door, 2012) [hb/David et Myrtille, Arcangel Images,]
  • No Harm Can Come to a Good Man (London: HarperCollins/The Borough Press, 2014) [hb/David et Myrtille, Arcangel Images,]
  • I Still Dream (London: HarperCollins/The Borough Press, 2018) [hb/]


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