Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds

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Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds

Category: Science Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: JY Saville
Reviewed by JY Saville
Summary: A tense, claustrophobic novella from a master of space opera. Deep thoughts about civilisation, humanity and the aftermath of war, contained in a short book.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 192 Date: February 2017
Publisher: Gollancz
External links: [www.alastairreynolds.com Author's website]
ISBN: 978-1473218420

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When hundreds of worlds have been at war for a long time, the announcement of a ceasefire takes a while to reach everyone. It's perhaps not surprising that the worst of the soldiers using the war as an excuse for crimes, don't immediately give up. Scur, a conscript who has just been given the hope of returning to her family, has the misfortune to run into one of these war criminals before the peacekeepers arrive. He leaves her to die, but she subsequently wakes up from hibernation on a prison ship, only to discover that he is there too. And that's the least of her worries.

Alastair Reynolds is known for his epic space opera, but he has written his fair share of short fiction over the years. Slow Bullets, a novella first released as a chapbook via a small press two years ago, is long enough to feel substantial but short enough that here he can only hint at the vast times, distances and themes you might encounter in one of his novels. From all the short stories he's written, of course, he is a master at this and there is a real sense of Slow Bullets being a snapshot, a window onto one small piece of an endless universe.

The bulk of the novella, which is written from Scur's point of view, is set on the prison ship, a claustrophobic space populated largely by enemy combatants, or rather people who in their own timelines were enemies until recently, no matter how long they have actually been in hibernation. There are clearly problems with the ship, requiring speedy cooperation. Mistrust, old scores, religious differences all threaten to get in the way and there are several levels of tension at once. Impressive for such a short book, but then it did win the 2016 Locus Award for best novella.

The slow bullets referred to in the title are embedded data devices, ideal for carrying a soldier's identity and background safely in combat. Identity becomes a major part of the book, not only individual but cultural. What knowledge, what history or literature shapes a civilisation? And what are people prepared to sacrifice in order to preserve it?

Completely at the other end of the length scale, but fitting in with the themes of war, isolation and a decaying civilisation is Confluence by Paul McAuley. It has the room to explore all of those themes much more deeply than Slow Bullets, and its trilogy of novels allows for full immersion into the fictional world.

Buy Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds at Amazon.com.


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