Only Forward
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Only Forward

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4.31 of 5 stars 4.31  ·  rating details  ·  2,351 ratings  ·  189 reviews
Only a handful of authors write with such startling originality that the uniqueness of their vision has become synonymous with their name. In Spares and One of Us, Michael Marshall Smith has earned that distinction. In this unsettling, suspenseful, and wildly imaginative novel he's written a tale that from page one hurtles us....


Call him Stark. If you have to. If you're lu...more
Paperback, 342 pages
Published September 5th 2000 by Spectra (first published 1994)
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Stephen
6.0 stars. On my list of "All Time Favorite" novels. I really enjoyed the two other books I have read by Michael Marshall Smith, Spares and Straw Men and so had fairly high expections going into this book. They were SIGNIFICANTLY exceeded. I loved this book from the opening page to the very last word.

This book is defintely a "mind trip" where reality is not always what you think it is and you are never sure what is going to happen next. However, unlike other books like this, the author does a s...more
Nikki
Oh -- my -- god. When I started reading this book I expected it to keep up the fairly light tone of the early chapters. Then it fucked with my heart bad. Don't believe reviews saying it makes no sense: it makes perfect sense, in the end, as long as you stop holding onto normal logic and start applying some dream logic. The narrator is unreliable, yeah, and he has attitude, and he knows he's telling a story, so there are bits that some people find irritating, like the way he keeps saying he'll te...more
Ryandake
i want to take a pair of scissors to this book.

not to make confetti, or compost, of it, but to rearrange it.

the author is introducing quite central new characters on page 320, fer chrissakes! the last 15 or so pages of the book are a firehose of infodump (well-written infodump, but still), the streams of which tie the book together.

but how much better it could have been if those streams were introduced earlier as rills... it would have ameliorated the worst problems of the beginning, and made th...more
Veeral
It is impossible for me to write a synopsis of this book. Nevertheless, let me try without giving away too much.

The book is divided into 3 parts. Extremely funny in part 1, weird in part 2 and the weirdest book you will ever come across in part 3. Even more than Naked Lunch (Sigh.. I haven't finished 'Naked Lunch' yet, even though I have tried 3 times!)

There! I said it. And I think I might have given away too much already!

I admit that it might not be everyone's cup of tea, but it's.... what shal...more
Ann
Nov 08, 2008 Ann rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ann by: Stefan
Shelves: sci-fi, futuristic, wow
First part: funny but confusing. Second part: even more confusing, and not so funny anymore. Third part: bittersweet and beautiful. I still don't know what to make of this book. Many people don't seem to like the ending, but I loved it. Only then do the first parts make sense. You get bits and pieces of the back story throughout the book and can guess what's important and what different things have to do with each other, but only the end "explains" it all, and I'm one of those people who need th...more
Sammie
This book is exactly what science-fiction should be!

There are two very distinct parts to it. I found the first part (the Neighborhoods) so absorbing, interesting and real that it didn't feel like reading fiction at all. As clichéd as it might sound, I felt like I was really there. The second part of the book (Jeamland) was equally as interesting, thought-provoking and easy to read, but it did not have the same intense feel to it. Plot-wise, Jeamland is a bit of a leap and expects the reader to w...more
Bill
This is probably going to be the worst review I've written.
There is so much to say about this novel, but I can't really tell you anything without spoiling it.
So, where to start?
How about the story? Well, the less you know, the better. Suffice it to say, our hero's travels take on some strange turns.

This is the second book I've read by Smith. His thriller Straw Men, under the name Michael Smith, was quite good, but the story wasn't one I wanted to keep following for two more novels.

Only Forward...more
Daniel Roy
What a perplexing book. On the one hand, I certainly have never read anything quite like it; but then there are tons of aspects of the book that are irritating and unsatisfying, making the novel fall well short of brilliance.

The novel starts as an Adams-esque science fictional satire, complete with home appliances with snappy personalities. My suspension of disbelief wrestled with the setting for a while, until I accepted that it was satirical and surreal, and thus should not be expected to make...more
Neil Powell
This really was a book of two halves. It begins as a wonderful sci-fi world created around the premise that the Earth is covered by one massive city and each "neighbourhood" has different rules and behaviours that govern the people who live there. The whole "missing person" private eye tale evolves nicely, but then at the half way point it becomes a strange and surreal trip through a dream world. I found the story lost its cohesion here, and it made it difficult to want to finish the book. The n...more
Matt Pillsbury
This book doesn't blend genres; it tosses genres in a burlap sac and then pounds on them with a hammer. It starts out as a spoofy take on hard-boiled detective stories and cyberpunk science fiction, and it ends as a solipsistic fantasy, one which is by turns maudlin and horrific, and the path it takes between those points is a (needlessly?) convoluted one. I don't think I'd describe it as a successful work, but it's far too engrossing, and even, at times, moving, to be called a failure.
Genevra Littlejohn
This book stuck with me for a long time.
Set in a future so far ahead as to occasionally be unrecognizable, this is nonetheless a very visceral story about regret and anger, and the distance between people, and the inability to go home--the fact that one must always, can only, go forward. Very recommended if you're looking for a science fiction story unlike anything you've tasted before.
Richard
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ketan Shah
A stunning piece of work,even more so when you consider it's Michael Marshall Smith's first novel. Smart ,surreal and brutal.,with a lot of heart. Smith does a good job creating a hard boiled narrator who does some incredible violent things ,but who you still care for.Ideas fly willy nilly as he describes the various strange neighborhoods that his character's inhabit. If you enjoyed this ,you might like Warren Ellis's Transmetropolitan comics,Michael Swanwyck's ,In the Drift and some of William...more
Christopher
4.5 Stars

Part 1: Hardboiled detective in a strange cyberpunk (of sorts) future. Funny in a Hitchhiker's Guide sort of way.

Part 2: Things get weird. Very weird.

Part 3: Surreal to the point that if I hadn't read the entire book in one sitting, I might question if I hadn't picked up the wrong book by mistake. I can't begin to describe the last half of this book without spoilers.

My only gripe, that I leave here so that my future self can remember what that annoyance in the back of my mind over this...more
Panagiotis
This book was really a big surprise for me. With an exceptional narration, an unforseen plot, full of great surprises, and with an unexpected twist in the end, it was far more brilliant than i expected, based on friend's reviews.

You could really say that the writer in the start had two different stories in his mind. The first part of the book is an outstanding adventure, with the breathtaking escape, and also a quite hilarious part with a protagonist full of deadly lines and jokes.

In the second...more
Ankush
As you'll see from all the other reviews, the book is split into three parts, and pretty much all the character's backstory is put right at the end. I'd already read the reviews before reading the book, so this didn't put me off as I was expecting it.

In short, I'll just say this book switches back and forth between laugh-out loud funny moments to quite sombre reflections on the nature of childhood, loss, relationships and belonging, via a plot which incorporates silly (but fun) sci-fi, magical...more
Johnathan Meerfeld
This is the first book that I read by MMS.

This is the book that made me love reading.
I'm considering writing another review just so i can give it ANOTHER 5 stars...

I won't review the plot here since I can't do it justice, not by a longshot.
I will say, however, that the quality of writing here is unparalleled, the
sheer inventive force and originality will amaze, and i suggest you make some time for this one, since you probably won't be able to *not* read it in one sitting, IF you can even sit thr...more
Amanda
Apr 24, 2012 Amanda rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Amanda by: Gary Dicken
Shelves: best-of-the-best
WOW! There is nothing I can really even say about this outstanding book. Superb writing, plot, world-building- just read it.
Sarah Dickey
don't know if i'll finish it or not... reccomendation from my coworker
Chris
Starting off strong with a mysterious main character that has a vague job, akin to something like a private detective, within a creative world. The place that he lives in had been divided into separate neighborhoods, almost like small countries, each with their own laws, exports, way of life, etc. Each one of these was very different, but only a few were described, but included a small one that was only delegated for cats. Yup, cats and whatever mysteries they do with their lives when we aren't...more
Dylan
Only Forward is a great book with great style. Smith's writing is funny and fresh, if maybe a little too self-aware at times - he's constantly addressing the reader's expectations directly, which works great only when he's right about those expectations, though to be fair, he usually is. His vision of a future where the world is divided into Neighbourhoods which are obsessed with various themes - e.g. color, action, sound, cats - is funny and absurdly inventive. The concept would provide most wr...more
Trayana
Майкъл Маршал Смит пише не само фантастика, но и трилъри под името Майкъл Маршал. Не може да се каже, че творбите му са непознати на българския читател. Фантастичните му книги са издавани от три различни издателства през годините. За мен „Само напред” представлява втори опит с Майкъл Маршал Смит, след като зарязах странно неконсистентния сборник What You Make It. Основно, защото не бях в настроение да чета психарии по него време.

Четох „Само напред” в изданието на ИК „Пан” от далечната 1999 г. Да...more
Sarah
Oct 17, 2011 Sarah rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sarah by: Dan
Shelves: 2011, great-reads
If you like scifi and love books and cats, you won't go wrong with this book. Fed-up with Scandinavian Crime, I asked hubby for a recommendation, and this was what he handed me.

This story follows the main character, Stark, as he journeys from his own Neighbourhood of 'The City', called Colour, (reminiscent of Jasper Fforde's "Shades of Grey"), through other Neighbourhoods such as 'Red', (think 'Mad Max') and 'Cat', (a neighbourhood inhabited by cats). Stark is sent on a mission that takes him t...more
Steve Wasling
I've just finished this often recommended book and I don't even know where to start in describing it. In fact, I think describing it too much would detract from certain aspects of the story. I'll put it this way; It starts as a somewhat surrealistic future SF novel set in an unnamed city that is divided into districts where like-minded individuals can pursue their often extreme lifestyles. Slowly but surely the story broadens into a whole other thing that I'm not going to give away in the slight...more
Donovan
A mind trip!!! If you want something that is off the wall, then this is it.

Plot ***Spoilers***
Only Forward opens with a small boy left on his own in a flat. The boy answers a knocking on the front door of his high rise flat to find a man with no head standing on the doorstep. The man cannot speak, but the boy knows he is asking him for help. Upon hearing the 'ping' of the lift door bell - indicating the return of his mother - The boy apologises and explains that he cannot help him, he closes th...more
Sam
This is a very unusual, and very creative, book. It is partly science fiction, borrowing from crime noir, with a somewhat mysterious protagonist who is a kind of private-eye character working to solve an abduction. This part of the story takes places in a futurist society, where machines are highly intelligent, and in which cities and states have been replaced by "neighborhoods". Some neighborhoods have themes like "Color", others are based on extreme behaviors like inner city gang culture, or e...more
Nicolas
Un petit résumé
Ce roman nous raconte les aventures de Starck, une espèce de détective privé un peu étrange, dans une ville aux dimensions d’un contient, munie de particularités assez étonnantes. Celui-ci doit aller exfiltrer une espèce de vieux cadre dynamique, censément enlevé ...
Un début d’avis
J’ai lu, il n’y a pas si longtemps, du même auteur, la proie des rêves. Ce qui est étonnant, c’est qu’on retrouve dans les deux romans d’assez nombreux points communs : le rêve est indiférenciable d...more
Will Chambers
Only Forward. Don’t try to work out the title, it’ll take too long to do it. Only Stark can explain it.

Stark is the protagonist, and often his own greatest adversary. He’s a man of many talents, and though he rarely identifies what these talents are or how he acquired them, he appears to be one of a kind in Smith’s fishbowl world. A fishbowl not just in the sense that its inhabitants are trapped into confined areas, but also because (like it’s alcoholic namesake) it hosts a combination of just a...more
Daniel
Early in to this book I flashed back on the books of Ron Goulart that I read back in the 70's and 80's. There was a very similar sense of humor. And as I got a little further in to the book, I began to sense a bit of Phil Dick. When I told this to my friend, he said that the writing style reminded him of Roger Zelazny. I can see that, too.

There was something incredibly unique here. I never got a sense that I was reading something that had been done to death in different ways.

In Only Forward, Smi...more
Ray Daley
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Michael Marshall (Smith) is a bestselling novelist and screenwriter. His first novel, ONLY FORWARD, won the August Derleth and Philip K. Dick awards. SPARES and ONE OF US were optioned for film by DreamWorks and Warner Brothers, and the Straw Men trilogy - THE STRAW MEN, THE LONELY DEAD and BLOOD OF ANGELS - were international bestsellers. His most recent novels are THE INTRUDERS, BAD THINGS and K...more
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Spares One of Us What You Make It: A Book Of Short Stories Bad Things The Servants

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“How many times have you tried to talk to someone about something that matters to you, tried to get them to see it the way you do? And how many of those times have ended with you feeling bitter, resenting them for making you feel like your pain doesn't have any substance after all?

Like when you've split up with someone, and you try to communicate the way you feel, because you need to say the words, need to feel that somebody understands just how pissed off and frightened you feel. The problem is, they never do. "Plenty more fish in the sea," they'll say, or "You're better off without them," or "Do you want some of these potato chips?" They never really understand, because they haven't been there, every day, every hour. They don't know the way things have been, the way that it's made you, the way it has structured your world. They'll never realise that someone who makes you feel bad may be the person you need most in the world. They don't understand the history, the background, don't know the pillars of memory that hold you up. Ultimately, they don't know you well enough, and they never can. Everyone's alone in their world, because everybody's life is different. You can send people letters, and show them photos, but they can never come to visit where you live.

Unless you love them. And then they can burn it down.”
560 likes
“When you're born a light is switched on, a light which shines up through your life. As you get older the light still reaches you, sparkling as it comes up through your memories. And if you're lucky as you travel forward through time, you'll bring the whole of yourself along with you, gathering your skirts and leaving nothing behind, nothing to obscure the light. But if a Bad Thing happens part of you is seared into place, and trapped for ever at that time. The rest of you moves onward, dealing with all the todays and tomorrows, but something, some part of you, is left behind. That part blocks the light, colours the rest of your life, but worse than that, it's alive. Trapped for ever at that moment, and alone in the dark, that part of you is still alive.” 41 likes
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