Book Review: Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds

I was approached by the publisher to review this a few months back – feeling quite pleased with myself that they felt my reviews of Reynolds’ work was sufficient quality to approach me with this new release. Long-time readers will know that I am a big fan of Reynolds’ work so I read this at my earliest opportunity. It’s a bit of a departure in terms of length. Most of his books are 600-700 pages but this novella, having taken me around 3hrs of reading time, was one lazy evening’s read.The only other works of this length I have read by the same author are Diamond Dogs (which I adore) and Turquoise Days which, though similar to DD, is still a good read if not memorable. They appear in a single volume just for the record.

Told in first person, it is of an old woman named Scur recounting the details of her life starting from her capture on the eve of a peace agreement. Rotten luck, because the commander who has her has shot “slow bullets” into her legs that when they reach her heart, will kill her. Instead of dying (the slow bullet is actually an information recorder which becomes vital as the story develops but no spoilers here), she wakes up on a prison ship along with a large number of fellow soldiers from both sides of the war. Nobody really understands how they got there or even why they are there considering they now know about the end of the war. And that’s when the fun really starts…

Having read this, I wish Reynolds would write more of this length. Not because I don’t like his longer work (because I do), but because his style, depth and concepts can be so easily adapted to something like this without losing the quality for which he is known; it’s also much adapted than to the short fiction which always leave me feeling disappointed. He has attempted “twist in the tale” type stuff before, but this one is full of twists and turns that will keep you guessing up to each and every revelation. I’m not revealing any of them here but I do recommend this, especially if you have not read Reynolds before and are curious about hard science fiction.

Note: Not presently available in the UK – there are no immediate plans to do so.

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