Book Review: Slow Bullets
Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds
Kindle eBook: 192 pages
Publisher: Tachyon Publications
Language: English
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.


Once upon a time, there was a war between two groups of worlds. Battles were fought, atrocities were committed, and eventually a ceasefire was declared. Sometime after that, soldiers from both sides began the process of returning to their respective worlds, sometimes traveling together in stasis to major systems where they could be routed back to their various homes. One of these soldiers is named Scur.

A child of the Peripheral Worlds, Scur is a daughter, a sister, a soldier, and the victim of a war criminal just after the ceasefire has been announced. Scarred by the torture she experiences at his hand before circumstances lead to her being left for dead, she eventually finds herself on one of those transports traveling to a major staging world as part of her journey home. And it is aboard this ship that she wakes from stasis to discover that things have gone very, very wrong.

As Scur and other members of the ship's complement try to discover what has happened, where they are, and how to live and work together, they come to a new accommodation among themselves, and a new vision of their purpose in a strange and frightening universe.

OA Relevance: Low to Moderate

While we don't see a lot of the universe that Reynolds has created for this story, what we do see seems to primarily consist of what, in OA, would be called baseline or nearbaseline humans mainly living on planets. At the same time, there is a sense of time that feels a bit like OA, and the ultimate cause of the universe that the characters now find themselves in also is something that could fit into the OA setting without too much tweaking.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly:

Reynolds is a master author and has done a number of works that are considered inspirations for OA. This story is very well done, but lacks the hard science elements that would make it fit into the sort of future that we imagine in the setting (although something similar could be done within the bounds of known physics and other authors have played with the core idea). Also, the short length of the story sometimes seems to limit the background information and character development that we would generally expect from a Reynolds story. We don't learn much about any of the characters besides Scur, in particular the ship's crew who, with one exception who eventually disappears, are virtually never seen. We learn what slow bullets are, but not why anyone would use them. And we don't learn the ultimate fate of many of the characters that are introduced during the course of the story. Most of these issues could probably have been addressed if the story had just been made a little longer.

Overall Rating: Good

Reynolds has crafted a solid and engaging novella that holds the reader's interest. The only real complaint I had by the time I'd finished was that it wasn't as long and developed as I would have liked.

Todd Drashner (2015)
Voices Future Tense Table of Contents