Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds – Book Review

Another fast-paced novella courtesy of Alastair Reynolds, Slow Bullets makes for one of those reads you can’t step away from. After reading the first scene in the library, where I picked this title up, I sat down in the evening and didn’t stop reading until there was no more Slow Bullets left to read.

Whereas Permafrost, the first of the Alastair Reynolds novellas I read was driven by the force of its science fictional idea, the impetus for my interest in this one was the characters. Scur is a soldier fighting in a war she doesn’t believe in. It’s a war she wasn’t even supposed to be in, and when an incident within a transport vessel sees her sent far away from home, she’s none too thrilled about it. The cherry on top? The war criminal who captured her in the final days of the war–after a ceasefire, in fact–is also on-board. He’s not even her biggest worry, however: by dint of circumstance, it is up to Scur to make sure the nearly thousand people on the ship don’t end up tearing each other apart before they’ve so much as figured out what has gone wrong with the ship, where everyone’s ended up, and what horrible tragedy the lack of any man-made cosmic noise bodes for interstellar human civilization.

The greatest strength Reynolds shows in Slow Bullets is his daft wielding of elements of uncertainty. He injects lines of dialogue with subtle double meaning that some readers might very well miss, only to recall them after a number of conjectures are present What makes this novella so special, and probably one of the reasons it won a Locus Award in 2016, tear it down to its bare bones, you have a human story whose resolution speaks to the best of who we can be. Something that inspires and something to aspire to.

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