Alastair Reynolds is one of those authors that I basically preorder as soon as I hear something new is coming out. It’s fair to say that I haven’t loved the more recent stuff as much as the Revelation Space stories (something I am sure authors just loathe hearing), but I still read it and (generally… Terminal World didn’t work for me overall) enjoy it.
Slow Bullets is a stand-alone novella about war and renewal, peace and struggle, time and identity and sheer bloody-minded determination.
Scur is a soldier, although she wasn’t meant to be. Peace has been brokered but when your war spans multiple solar systems, it’s hard to get the message out. Scur ends up in stasis… and when she wakes up, something is deeply, deeply wrong. For a start she’s told that most of the others on the ship are war criminals; for another, the planet out the window doesn’t look familiar. And the nav beacons, that are meant to help with interstellar flight, appear to be on the blink….
There’s a lot going on here, and I can’t help but feel it might have been better served either as a novel or a short story (maybe novelette). With the latter, you could cut out some of the side-plots and focus really tightly on Scur and her revenge-seeking (which I didn’t love partly because it got a bit lost with everything else going on, partly because I don’t love revenge stories). With a novel, there would of course be more scope to examine the reactions of different people to their predicament, and spend more time on the issues of reconciliation (the ship is populated with people from both sides of the war, and it’s unclear to all of them who is a war criminal and who is not) and rebuilding lives that must now be entirely re-thought (no one is going back to Kansas).
I really loved the idea that if your main database is being corrupted (accidentally but irredeemably), and you’ve got this enormous spaceship with blank walls all around you, there’s a really obvious way of recording your history and culture for posterity.
I didn’t adore it but I am happy to have read it.