By Alastair Reynolds
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Scott
Imagine being woken up on a prison ship hurled thousands of years into the future after the fall of the spacefaring age. Now imagine what it would be like living the memories of a war that for you only happened yesterday but in actuality took place over 800 years in the past. Imagine waking up alongside war criminals and heroes and civilians. Imagine your history slowly being eaten away by a corroding starship. Alastair Reynolds’ Slow Bullets pontificates this and more in a pulse pounding novel that is easily the equal of any Arthur C. Clarke and Phillip K. Dick story rolled into one.
Masterfully constructing the characters, Reynolds doesn’t introduce the primary protagonists all at once. Building the character dynamics in a slow calculated manner serves his purpose precisely. The words between characters are tight, and you never feel pushed in favor of one or another. The dialogue is brisk and heart-felt. After a while, the characters become your compatriots, and their individual fates become a vested interest for the reader. An almost Dicksian detachment surrounds the characters, though; a thin veil that cannot be pierced and only offers a selective viewpoint into the mind of Scur, the main protagonist, at any given time.
In Slow Bullets, plot is well contrived, given the nature of the material. Rather than closing the ending, Reynolds leaves it open, letting the reader conjure up spectres of what will be, rather than what it is. Normally a fan of closure in a story, this type of ending didn’t seem to bother me as such. With the plot laid out in the manner it is, closure almost felt transient, compared to the on goings of the mottled crew aboard the ship. It is the characters that drive the plot here, not vice versa, and it shows in the clarity of the work. The character closure is complete; the fate of humanity is not.
Stylistically this is a masterpiece to behold. Slick and polished, Slow Bullets will please the palette of any reader of any genre, not just science fiction. Word economy is tight and nothing is wasted on the reader. Suspense, intrigue and the thought provoking instances that occur in time all play an equal part to the collective whole; adding in characterization, the whole is definitely more than the sum of its parts. All attempts at keeping the reader’s imagination open are left open wide and the book is better for it.
All in all, Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds, is a remarkable read. Fans of contemplative science fiction, like The Matrix, Johnny Mnemonic, or books like Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War or any Phillip K. Dick story, will find themselves treading familiar waters here. Make no mistake about it, though. Slow Bullets will more than likely garner a few more discerning readers. For a thought provoking read, look no further than Slow Bullets.