SLOW BULLETS is effortlessly genius and impossible to put down

Trio of reviews for Alastair Reynolds’ intriguing SLOW BULLETS.

(Photo: Barbera Bella)


I really loved Slow Bullets. The pacing is spot-on perfect, I liked how Scur and many of the other characters seemed reluctant to expose anything about themselves. Some readers may view it as flimsy characterization, but to me there is a line between flimsy characterization and a character telling the reader at the onset: I’m not sure if I trust you yet. Scur prefers to warm up to people before she tells them about herself. About how her conscription was meant to be a punishment for her father. About how she doesn’t believe in The Book, even though she was raised by religiously observant parents.   From what the other soldiers mention, and Scur’s conversations with the crew-member she befriends, we learn the interstellar war had religious underpinnings. Two cultures with two similar holy books. But different enough that each side decided they were right, the other side was wrong, and the heretics needed to die. Hmmm… sounds familiar, actually.


There were also some fun twists in the plot. I was sure certain characters had certain identities, and I was proven wrong each time. When I thought the plot was going to go in one direction, it went in a completely different one.   And then there is *the* twist. The one that made Slow Bullets so effortlessly genius and impossible for me to put down. It’s a twist I’ve run into before, and I can’t get over how much I liked the way Reynolds presented it.

Once the final twist is revealed, the story takes a fascinating turn, one that Scur hints at and that I’d really love to talk about, but I don’t want to spoil anything. All I can tell you is that it has to do with creative methods of transferring information and coming to terms with reality. Wow, that phrase sounded really boring, didn’t it?

Slow Bullets is a short novel I see myself rereading again and a again. This is only the second or third book I’ve read by Reynolds, but my enjoyment of this one makes me want to start collecting his titles.



Having read this, I wish Reynolds would write more of this length. Not because I don’t like his longer work (because I do), but because his style, depth and concepts can be so easily adapted to something like this without losing the quality for which he is known; it’s also much adapted than to the short fiction which always leave me feeling disappointed. He has attempted “twist in the tale” type stuff before, but this one is full of twists and turns that will keep you guessing up to each and every revelation. I’m not revealing any of them here but I do recommend this, especially if you have not read Reynolds before and are curious about hard science fiction.


Alastair Reynolds addresses a number of interesting ideas in this story. One has to do with how information should be preserved when much of the accumulated knowledge of mankind is about to be lost. Another has to do with the value of redemption, or even the possibility of redemption, as an alternative to punishment. Lesser themes concern the nature of individual identity and what should be done about religious conflict in a confined society.

Slow Bullets will probably disappoint fans who want everything a favorite author writes to be just like their favorite novels by that author. Fans sometimes have little patience for writers who stretch, explore, or depart from their own formulas. This isn’t a Revelation Space novel – it isn’t even a novel, but a novella length story. It isn’t action-filled. If you approach Slow Bullets with an open mind, however, those are not sensible reasons to dislike the work. While the characters in Slow Bullets do not the depth that a longer story would permit, the ideas are intriguing and the length of the story is perfect for the development of those ideas.


For more info about SLOW BULLETS, visit the Tachyon page.

Cover art by Thomas Canty

Design by Elizabeth Story