Cover image for Only forward
Only forward
Smith, Michael Marshall.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Bantam/Spectra, 2000.

Physical Description:
341 pages ; 18 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Mass Market Paperback Popular Materials-Science Fiction/Fantasy
X Adult Mass Market Paperback Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Michael Marshall Smith has written a tale that from page one hurtles us only forward in this unsettling, suspenseful, and wildly imaginative novel

Call him Stark. If you have to. If you're lucky, you won't call him at all. Because if you do, it means you've got trouble. Big trouble. And the problem is that before Stark is done fixing something, a whole lot of other things usually get broken. Like laws and lives--and anyone who gets in the way.

It's that attitude that's earned him his latest assignment: finding a missing VIP named Fell Alkland. The authorities believe Alkland has been kidnapped. Stark doesn't. He hasn't stayed alive this long without learning the basics of survival in a world hurtling straight to hell: Things are always more complicated than they seem. And when a job seems too easy, that's when something really ugly is about to happen.

For Fell Alkland is about to become Stark's worst nightmare, a nightmare where anything can happen at any time--where friends can become enemies in a heartbeat and your most secret fear a soul-screaming reality. And the worst of it is that for this nightmare you don't even have to be asleep.

"Shocking, moving, and surreal . . . It offers us a journey from which we return both shaken and exhilarated. . . . Extraordinary."--Clive Barker

Author Notes

Michael Marshall Smith is a critically acclaimed and award-winning author who lives in London. One of Us has been optioned by Warner Bros. Spares , his American debut, is under option with DreamWorks SKG.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) FYI: Last year's mass market edition of this novel won the Philip K. Dick award for distinguished science fiction published as a paperback original in the U.S. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

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. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Once there was a boy in a house. He was alone because his father was out at work, and his mother had run around the corner to the store. Although the boy was only four, he was a reliable child who knew the difference between toys and accidents waiting to happen, and his mother trusted him to be alone for five minutes. The boy was sitting playing in the living room when suddenly he had an odd feeling. He looked around the room, thinking maybe that the cat had walked behind him, gently moving the air. But he wasn't there, and nothing else was out of the ordinary, so the boy went back to what he was doing. He was coloring a picture of a jungle in his coloring book, and he wanted to have it finished before his father got home from work. Then there was a knock at the door. The boy stared at the door for a moment. That's what the feeling had been about. He had known there would be a knock at the door, just as he sometimes knew that the phone was going to ring. He knew that it couldn't be his mother, because he'd seen her take the keys. He also knew that he shouldn't open the door to strangers when he was in the house alone. But something made him feel that this didn't count, that this time was different. After all, he'd known about it beforehand. So he got up, and walked slowly over to the door. After a pause, he opened it. At the time his family were living high up in an apartment house. Outside their door was a balconied walkway which went right around the floor and led to lifts around to the right. It was midmorning, and bright spring sun streamed into the room, the sky a shining splash of white and blue. On the balcony stood a man. He was a big man, wearing tired jeans and nothing on his feet. His torso was naked except for tiny whorls of hair, and he didn't have a head. The man stood there on the balcony outside the boy's flat, leaning against the wall. His head and neck had been pulled from his body like a tooth from the gum, and his shoulders had healed over smoothly, with a pronounced dip in the middle where the roots had been. The boy did not feel afraid, but instead a kind of terrible compassion and loss. He didn't know what the feelings were in words, of course. He just felt bad for the man. "Hello?" he said, timidly. In his head the boy heard a voice. "Help me," it said. "How?" "Help me," said the voice again, "I can't find my way home." The boy heard a noise from along the balcony and knew it was the elevator doors opening. His mother was coming back. The man spoke once more, spoke to the boy as if he was the only one who could help him, as if somehow it was his responsibility. "I want to go back home. Help me." "Where's your home?" The voice inside his head said something, and the boy tried to repeat it, but he was young, a child, and couldn't get the word right. He heard footsteps comings toward the nearest corner, and knew they were his mother's."I can't help you," he said. "I can't help you," and he gently closed the door, shutting out the light. He walked stiffly back toward his book and all at once his legs gave way and left him on the floor. When his mother came in moments later, she found the boy asleep on the carpet, with tears on his face. He woke up when she hugged him, and said that nothing was wrong. He didn't tell her about the dream, and soon forgot all about it. But later he remembered, and realized it had not been a dream. Excerpted from Only Forward by Michael M. Smith All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.