The Return of the Incredible Exploding Man

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 13 Dec 2019

Member Reviews

Dave Hutchinson's The Return of the Incredible Exploding Man is a rather strangely structured novel. Despite the pulp SF title, for the first three-quarters of the book it's a slow-build technothriller with shades of Twin Peaks. The hero, Alex Dolan, is a seriously underemployed freelance journalist whose life is turned upside down when he receives a letter from multibillionaire Stan Clayton, the fifth richest man in the world, offering him a job. Clayton has bought an entire county in northern Iowa and built a giant supercollider underneath the fields, and he wants Alex to write a book about it, something that will counteract the negative press the project has received to date. Despite some misgivings, Alex accepts the job and moves to Sioux Crossing, where he finds that however friendly and welcoming the locals are (with the exception of his deeply cantankerous next-door neighbour) he can't escape the sense that something strange is going on. And then, just as it starts to feel that Alex might finally be going to find some answers, Hutchinson flips everything on its head and the final 25% is a very different story, one that seems like a much better fit for the title. I found this a bit disconcerting, especially as the second part doesn't answer many of the questions posed in the first. (I gather that Hutchinson published a short story called 'The Incredible Exploding Man' a few years ago, and from the synoposis I think that may have been substantially similar to the final section of the novel, with the earlier part forming an origin story for the characters in the short story.)

Aside from the slightly odd structure, I really enjoyed this; it's generally lighter in tone than Hutchinson's Fractured Europe series, but shares its wryly humorous tone and is a similarly easy, plotty read with interesting and mostly likeable characters.

(Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free eARC for review.)
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Science fiction tale which would be good for fans of the Martian as issues and technology are dealt with with a similar light touch which stops the text from feeling too heavy
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This is an enjoyable thriller, well written, easy to read. Moves along at a good pace, interesting characters. I would certainly read more from this author. The only reason I didn’t give the 5 stars is the ending which I can only describe as too impersonal and somehow disconnected, but that’s just my feeling and may not feel that way to others. Overall it was well worth taking the time to read.
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In THE RISE OF THE INCREDIBLE EXPLODING MAN, by Dave Hutchinson, Alex Dolan is a struggling freelance journalist who is given the fortuitous opportunity to be handsomely sponsored to write a book about a new Supercollider is being built.  As Alex begins to settle into Sioux Crossing, the town where the Supercollider is located, mysteries seem to start bubbling to the surface, like what is the real purpose of the Supercollider, what is the truth about stories of static electricity and blue sparks around town, and great lengths been taken to make everything look as normal and uninteresting as possible to hide what?  Alex's search for all the truths that no one wants him to know is moving along when a horrible accident happens and Alex's survival becomes the key to figuring out what to do with the aftermath of such a cataclysmic event.
  While set close to (or maybe little past) the present, Hutchinson creates a world that feels pleasantly retro futuristic, with simple people with simple needs and where technology only seems to invade their lives at work or when it is essential to live.  While Alex Dolan is fascinating himself, Hutchinson creates a wonderful cast of characters that feel real and are easy for the reader to connect with.  The search for answers takes Alex on a rollercoaster of discoveries and dead ends and that unpredictable ride is what make the book so much fun.  You could call the ending a little abrupt and unfulfilling, but I think the journey to get there is so much fun it doesn't really matter.
   After reading THE RETURN OF THE INCREDIBLE EXPLODING MAN, I feel inspired to read other works by Dave Hutchinson in hopes that they are as fun and entertaining as this one.
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I ended up stopping about halfway through the book. Thus far, the main character had been sent to a Whispering Pines sort of suburban uptopia set up to support a tech mogul genius's new idea. The main character is a writer who's in a dry creative period and he's got a sort of dry Scottish humor that kept me engaged and reading longer than I might have otherwise. I was also interested to see the sort of Faustian bargain made- the writer (Alex Dolan) knows he's getting into a fishy situation, but he is just about out of money and even if the deal seems too good to be true, he can't help but take the bait.

Then the book sort of peters out for a while. A lot of time is spent describing travel back and forth between the town and Dolan's new place, there's a snowstorm, and Dolan is mostly stonewalled when he tries to really dig for information for the book he's been hired to write. There's a love interest too with a verrrrryyy slow burn.

After chugging along for about half the book waiting for something to happen, I got bored and skipped through to the end. Other reviewers have mentioned that the last third or so of the book is extremely different than the first part, and I wonder why the first part was tagged on in the first place if not as filler- this could have been a novella without sacrificing any plot. Short version- Dolan is essentially Dr. Manhattaned (Watchmen comics for your reference) and has to stop another person who didn't take to his transformation nearly as well. At this point, the book turns into more of an examination of the trope of powered-up characters and what their motivations might actually be. But most of the book is chucked aside, including most of the relationships that the author had taken so long to describe.

I've read a bit of Hutchinson's Fractured Europe series and enjoyed his concepts but had trouble getting into his writing. After this book, I wonder if he's just not for me.
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Something isn’t right here…nothing’s happening…that would do it

Alex Dolan is a failing journalist, let go from his job at the globe he is out of work, out of money and as the bills add up, out of luck. Until the worlds 5th wealthiest man offers Alex a job reporting on the worlds largest supercollider. Little does Alex know that this small town will change his life? Dave Hutchinson does a brilliant job of building the picture of a sleepy town in Iowa where nothing happens, but something is wrong with the place. The book follows Alex as he accepts the job and tries to settle into this sleepy town where everyone knows everyone, the book covers a period of time similar to a year but I personally found it strangely disorientating were jumped in time into barely marked by any major events. The characters are nicely written if very 2d dimensional along with the town however this cleverly seems to add to the tension as the story unfolds. When a series of unfortunate events begin to plague Alex’s life he suspects the collider to have some influence, however, the book only begins to pick up pace and become exciting and engaging close to the end (my kindle read 80%) this leaves the book finishing with the distinct feeling that the story is only half told and what was presented is a rushed and messy period of time with the last few pages spanning years between paragraphs! 

This story really feels like its been let down in its presentation. Either a prequel before the collider story was needed as a serrate book, or the end few pages needed moving to their own sequel. This would have done the story Dave has written proper justice, as it is I can’t recommend a book where nothing happens for most of it and where the focus of the book happens so late it is not even fully explored.


Breakaway Reviewers received a copy of the book to review
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Dave Hutchinson is doing some very strange things here and I loved it. The book is in my view a slow burn that is too the last quarter where everything accelerates in a way that totally pays off for the reader. The first 3/4 of the book is great and leaves you wanting to get to the action promised in the title and dare say the cover art, which is totally amazing, and when the book delivers it delivers. Totally unputdownable from start to finish but once you get to that last quarter of the book you are not going to be going anything else but reading this book. 

It's about Alex who lands what seems like a dream job: writing a book and articles about a new large super collider, The Souix City Super Collider. Once on the job, obviously, everything is not as it seems and the mystery and development of it all is so good and it leads right up to the heavy action towards the end. Such a good payoff. Not strictly scifi but like a thriller-mystery-scifi. Just great and a great way to access the work of Hutchinson, I'll be looking into reading his backlog.
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I wanted to read this since i read the synopsis and i am glad that it didn't disappoint me. It was definitely an interesting story to read. I really enjoyed it. Thank you for the arc.
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This was a cool, part scifi part mystery part adventure.  I did find that the message/explanation got a little garbled near the end of the book, which was slightly frustrating for me because I like that stuff to be crystal-clear.  But it wasn't frustrating enough to ruin a good tale.
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I am a great Sci-fi fan but this book didn't do anything for me. Very slow moving and lots of negative feelings.
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Dave Hutchinson has written the critically acclaimed Europe sequence of books. Whilst this story may have a title that makes it sound like a reboot of a lesser known Marvel super-hero, it is an intriguing slow-burning mystery that has a spectacular ending, which I won't ruin for potential readers.
Alex Dolan is a Scottish born tech-journalist living in Boston. The slow death of traditional journalism in the free Information Age has hit him hard and he is struggling to make a living. Financial salvation is offered by Stan Clayton, the world's fifth richest person. Clayton has something of the 'Elon Musk' spirit about him; entrepreneurial, seeking to push the boundaries of technology and looking to inspire people with tales of wonder.
Clayton has purchased large parts of Iowa on which he has built a particle super-collider. He wants Dolan to write some articles and a book about the project. Dolan is offered the freedom to write what he wants but he is stubborn; Clayton's wealth and the promise of a large pay-packet don't impress him. Reluctantly, Dolan agrees to at least consider the offer and to look around the town of Sioux Falls, a town that had fallen on hard times before Clayton started investing heavily in the area. Dolan meets a number of locals, some tell him to get away while he can, others cannot see why he would turn down Clayton's offer, which involves salary, a line of credit to buy essentials and a house.
Whilst he is mulling the offer, Dolan is staying in a very plush hotel suite. Whilst there, he hears a strange scrabbling knock at the door, which leads to a visit from the police. Dolan wonders what has happened in the past to make the police interested in such a mundane occurrence. There are other sporadic reports of strange sightings in Sioux Falls but little in the way of detail. The previous occupants of Dolan's house left in a hurry, leaving lots of their possessions in the basement. Dolan tracks them down and they mention they had a visitation, although it's not clear whether this was real or imagined.
Dolan's research takes him on and around the site of the super-collider, where he spots Larry Day, a scientific genius but an unstable and dangerous personality. Day likes to push boundaries without thoughts about potential consequences.
During a barbecue he has arranged for friends and neighbours, Dolan's house catches fire. Whilst evacuating the house, Dolan sees a man made of static. A number of other unfortunate incidents add to the mystery of what is actually happening in Sioux Falls. Dolan believes that Larry Day may have the answer. He attempts to confront him at the super-collider just as an experiment is taking place. And then things become ......weird, and riveting.
After a measured and slow-paced meander that feels as though it will end with a whodunnit/whatdunnit explanation, the book goes somewhere I was not expecting it to. It's a fantastic turn and makes the book feel unusual. I was reminded of some Philip K Dick novels in which he took the floor from under you when your expectations may have been set.
This is a great science fiction book and well worth reading.
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4.2 stars. A relatively realistic take on superpowers, this novel was a joy to read up to the end, where a somewhat abrupt ending marred the story structure.

Our hero, a down-on-his-luck journalist, is invited to create promotional materials for an exclusive scientific and political project. But things, of course, are not quite right with the idyllic little town. A scientific accident might just turn a humble journalist into something monstrous and godlike…

The author creates a lovable protagonist, with very real and believable reactions to incidents beyond comprehension. The book also gives us (what I consider to be) a more-realistic-than-average depiction of possible effects of dramatic scientific mistakes. Other larger-than-life characters populate the book, and international politics adds an additional layer of realism (and fun). Moments of crackling wit also contribute to the unique atmosphere.

I do wish that the Exploding Man himself had shown up before the end of the book, though. Because everything led up to the confrontation with the Exploding Man, which was never really shown, the story seems to have been cut off at the climactic moment. 

Content warnings: moderately severe coarse language, including multiple instances of the f-word; some violence and gore.
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THis is a really interesting book. The build up to the main event of the story is pretty slow paced but is intriguing enough that I always wanted to read more and find out exactly what was going on. The whole setup gives you a really uneasy feeling as you progress through the story of a science journalist who is given an offer he can't refuse to cover a research project, but finds the whole experience strange, difficult and a mystery that needs to be unravelled. Characters are all only ever experienced from the perspective of the protagonist, so you never quite have a feel for their motives and intentions, which just adds to the mystery. Although it is written in the third person, it is told from a very much first person perspective. You only ever follow the main character and so you unravel the story at the same time he does. 

Overall, this is a really well written thriller, definitely will be looking up the authors other books after charging through this one.
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My next two books are courtesy of NetGalley. I will start with The Return of the Incredible Exploding Man David Hutchinson. Alex Doolan is just a normal guy - his writing career has flatlined, he can't make his rent and things are looking bleak until the multi-billionaire Stanislaw Clayton turns up and offers him a deal he can't refuse - writing a book about Clayton's big research project - Sioux Creek Supercollidor. Clayton owns not just the research station but the whole town and everyone in it. Alex thought that was weird until weirder things things start to happen. Unfortunately for Alex he is right in the epi-center. Will he come out unscathed? Read it and find out.

This is a slow burn action story and Alex is the perfect anti-hero. Hutchinson teases the reader until the very end. Luckily this is a quick and easy read so you aren't kept trying to figure out what is going on for too long. Hutchinson takes a fairly mundane character in the form of failed writer Alex Doolan and after a series of bizarre events he turns into the reluctant hero of the story. As much as I liked the story the pace is almost too slow. Nearly 80% of the book is setting up the last 20% and there really isn't a lot of character development. I still enjoyed it but think the pacing needs some work.
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I was looking forward to reading this as the synopsis sounded thrilling but I struggled to finish it and I think this was due to the pacing as it ground to several halts for me.   I found the set up with the characters intriguing but there seemed to been a lot of time put into the characters and the varied community of Sioux Crossing that it felt like it should have been a larger novel.  The last third of the novel was too rushed and the ending was unsatisfactory.  It actually felt like a few genres mashed together without much cohesion.
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I enjoyed this - very well- written and convincingly described and plotted. The first section reads like a thriller, but the final part morphs into a very modern Sci-Fi tale. I found myself gripped for the most part, although I did struggle with the narrator as I found him slightly dislikeable - arrogant and moody - and was unable to tell whether this was a plot device or my own feelings towards him. I'd definitely pick up something else by Dave Hutchinson and would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a fast-paced and interesting read, a bit different than the norm!
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An interesting read. I was straight into it and connected with the characters. I was intrigued and interested why nothing much happens in the first half. The second half happens and it looses its momentum. The first a brilliant piece of writing and the second, a hurried I’m not sure where I going with this, half. Having said all that, I did enjoy it.
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Like cats the naming of books can be a serious matter. Titles shape our expectations of the story to come be they a short snappy thriller; a flowery literary tale or gory punchy horror. With The Return of The Incredible Exploding Man Dave Hutchinson suggests we are in for a B Movie SF ride and then cunningly manages to both subvert our expectations of the tale being told and yet still delivering on that title’s promise just not quite how I expected it.

Our lead character is Alex Dolan an experienced Scottish science journalist trying to eke out a living while the US print journalism scene continues to shrink and die.  The unpaid bill reminders are coming through the door but then comes the offer of a job working for one of the richest men in the world. Stan Clayton is a very successful tech baron who has decided to create the next version of the Large Hadron Collider.  Bigger and even more powerful this device is going to even further examine what reality is made of. Of course, a huge and expensive project like that is always going to be having some notable set up issues which then attracts the wrong media headlines and after being mocked on Saturday Night Live he decides he needs someone to tell his side of the story. Alex is invited to live in the town of Sioux Crossing where the collider resides; he is paid to publish some magazine articles and ultimately a book – he can be open and honest but must deliver a ‘sensawunda’. Alex reluctantly agrees and then starts to see the positive and negative impacts of Clayton’s investment on the town and eventually himself.  

On the surface Sioux Crossing is a glowing endorsement for capitalism’s regeneration of a decaying small town but it is also still home to the original inhabitants feeling squeezed out; academic infighting and despite that people who really care about pushing the bounds of science. Alex himself also is seen as way inside for others to finally work out what Clayton may be up to. And then there are the sparks and angels that people keep claiming that they have seen over the years.

So generally, this feels much more a SF thriller, but it meanders into many other places. Clayton is not an evil genius looking to take over the world – but he is someone for whom money solves all problems from phone signals to troublesome employees. Need a site then let’s buy a town; then let’s replace all the buildings; lets fill it with my own people.  It’s less evil and much more a very blinkered worldview that in the age of tech barons launching twitter wars and acting like small countries feels very true. But at the same time the actual scientists are genuinely keen to explore the universe with their new toy and it’s not a novel saying we are going too far and indeed rejects many myths of black holes (to some extent). But Hutchinson does throw in how scientists can be prickly when called on bad behaviour and that uneasy relationship between pure science and government military research where beautiful science is often just seen as shinier way to kill people.  

Into this walks our main lead Alex – a middle-aged, balding slightly lost soul trying to find his place in life.  He definitely doesn’t want to play to Stan’s tune but at the same time he’s emotionally captured by the people he meets and then also pressganged into staying by British Intelligence! Alex is however fundamentally a decent and also humorous man. He forms relationships with many in the town from Wendy the much smarter and more practical scientist and the cranky elderly neighbour Ralph and his farting dog Homer. The novel mixes pathos as in particular these two men discuss their lives and where they’re going and there is a lot of banter between the two which is just joyful.  It’s the type of snark you could easily see in Scalzi’s Old Man’s War novel but here just in someone’s living room rather than on a spaceship. 

That’s for me the most interesting part of the novel.  It’s a low speed thriller for much of it.  Alex is not immediately sucked into a mystery he’s just exploring how this place works. And slowly weird thigs happen – mysterious figures at the door; sparks in a room and laptops being hacked and then events get larger. These give Alex a chance to decide who’s side he is on and he’s refreshingly not selfish or that intrepid he just would like to do the decent thing. That leads to the finale of the story where all we’ve seen goes 180 degrees into a very different type of story – one that makes sense with all we have seen but not one you would be expecting.  I think how much of that you accept will be the key to your enjoying the novel.  I am an unabashed fan of mixing up types of stories and creating something different which this delivers in spades but if you are more logically minded in your plots then you may be feeling like the rug has been pulled out from under you unfairly. My one reservation is that the finale has a lot to try and wrap up and the faster pace at the end does seem to leave some plot threads unexplained.  I’m hoping that this signals we will return to Alex’s new lifestyle in the future as I sense there could be some more tales to be told.

Following the very Le Carre style ‘Fractured Europe’ series that Hutchinson deservedly has received much acclaim for I was not sure what we would get in this novel.  It however actively tries to move away from spying and skulduggery but at the same time is still funny, perceptive about the state of the world and genuinely surprising in the directions it takes.  If this feels the type of slow burn SF thriller you have always wanted to read, then I would heartily recommend it.
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This book is mostly brilliant, and is very much a book of two parts.
For the majority of the book, we have a slow burning but very brilliantly described path from an out-of-work writer to him being employed by a hugely rich person to write about a new supercollider. This part is excellent, as it builds up the background without us noticing unduly, and Alex meets various people working in or near his new town. Some of this is fascinating, and some is creepy, as you notice how a billionaire can manipulate places and people to suit him. It is all rather plausible.
The second part of this book, much smaller than the first part, is where things change dramatically. It becomes very science-fiction written, rather different to the first, and even as someone who loves scifi I found it a little surprising. However, it did all rather make sense, and I did enjoy reading about it as some things became clear.
Unfortunately, I felt that there were many issues still unresolved when I suddenly found myself at the end, and would rather have read a slightly longer book and had some of those explained. I am not someone who always needs all loose ends tied up, but I did feel a bit short-changed as I was expecting an explanation for some things that had happened. It was tempting to take away a star for this, as I cannot use half-stars! But I have not, as I did thoroughly enjoy the story, and just wished there had been a bit more.
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First off I should say that sci-fi has never been my preferred genre to read. Having said that I found this book thoroughly enjoyable. It was witty, and engaging and whilst I can't pretend to understand all the sciency parts, it was intriguing. Alex Dolan is in a state of lethargy. Jobless, penniless and aimless. One day a letter arrives offering him a job interview. He also finds that all his bills have been paid off in full. He flies to San Francisco to meet Stan Clayton, the fifth richest man in the world. Stan has bought a whole county in the U.S. and is attempting a science experiment never attempted before. Alex's only job is to write a book about the experiment. However, the offer seems to good to be true, and things take a strange turn with mysterious figures appearing, blue sparks in the air and being coerced into becoming a spy for the British Consulate. Ultimately as the experiment counts down, a blast leaves everyone suspended between dimensions apart from Alex who acquires superpower status, and his nemesis Larry Day who is the incredible exploding man. I was somewhat perturbed by the ending, which some will love and some will hate, but potentially there may be more to come for Alex Dolan. Original and interesting, fans of sci-fi will I'm sure love this book.
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