Feb. 11th, 2016

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I enjoyed Alistair Reynolds' novella Slow Bullets very much, despite certain flaws, largely having to do with characterisation. The story itself is a compelling one. Scur, a former soldier, saved from a certain and horrifying death by a sudden ceasefire, falls unconscious from pain, and wakes up in a giant ship full of soldiers from both sides of the conflict, most of them war criminals, all being conveyed to their destination in hibernation.

Mysteries abound - why was she on the ship in the first place? Why are all the sleepers awakening prematurely? What planet are they orbiting? What happened to cause multiple malfunctions in the ship's programming and mechanical systems? Is there any way to keep the soldiers from re-igniting the war? How will Scur deal with the presence of the enemy soldier who tortured her? What must they do to survive?

The answers unfold, in surprising ways. Scur is a strongly realised, if somewhat unreliable protagonist - she insists that she was no war criminal, but if so, why is she on this ship, and why are there subtle anomalies in her "bullet" - a small memory storage device implanted in her chest that carries her personal records. It is in large part her decisions, her priorities, her memories and her need to resolve her unfinished business with her torturer that drive many of the key developments in the narrative. The other characters pale beside her - perhaps because this is clearly her personal narrative, and as it turns out, a narrative that will be her posterity.

Overall, a satisfying read with some interesting reflections on what drives people apart, and what holds them together.


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