With a colorful narrative, Alastair Reynolds’ SLOW BULLETS addresses the big questions

Photo: Barbera Bella

Another quartet of reviews for Alastair Reynolds’ gripping SLOW BULLETS including a starred review from LIBRARY JOURNAL.

While shorter than Reynolds’s usual fare, this is no less ambitious in covering vast scopes of space and time while addressing big questions. Suggest to fans of Ian MacDonald or Kim Stanley Robinson, particularly those who liked Aurora.


Alastair Reynolds weaves a tapestry of dark, dystopian societies in a tense, colorful narrative. His plot is bold and striking, as he elicits the cold, empty death awaiting everyone who cannot find a way to coexist and survive.


In a captivating first-person narrative, Scur recalls waking up, after ‘an interval of darkness, and then I woke somewhere. It was cold and there was no light.’ Scur’s rebirth into an as-yet-undisclosed space vessel (named Caprice), in an unknown time, is the catalyst for what often reads like a report on political experimentation. With Slow Bullets being released barely a month after the UK’s May General Election, it seems almost impossible not to compare our own political climate with that of the chaos that befalls Scur and her fellow internees.


Slow Bullets is in effect a fable for moderation. For working together against the odds and compromising to find a way that works. There will inevitably be compromises between beliefs, whether cultural or religious; between technological advancement and the desire to preserve human artistry and individuality, and of course, an ongoing compromise between people’s wants and needs versus the good of the group. This seemingly simple advocation of moderation does indeed appear to be falling more and more within the realms of sf in our world, and as such it has fallen to our speculative fiction to remind us that it is possible, if only we try, and maybe narratives like Slow Bullets can help give us a push in the right direction. In times of struggle, focus often falls to literature in an attempt to find answers for the questions that are plaguing society. As Scur tells us amid internee questionings, ‘[s]torytelling is another word for being interrogated’.


SLOW BULLETS, a new novella by Alastair Reynolds, is a very good piece of “hard” science fiction, without quite being up to the standard of Reynolds’s usually excellent style. The text reads more like a manuscript summary, a submission to the publisher providing the sketch for a future novel, broken up into separate chunks or segments. Despite the fact that each segment is gripping and contains very interesting ideas, there are big gaps in the narrative sequence begging to be filled in, and many segments have gaping plot-holes or contradictions that could have been ironed out in a final novel, that was never written. Still, it was a very enjoyable read.

And in another posting on XENO SWARM:

I would recommend this book to those who would like to get an idea of the range of Reynolds’s speculative imagination, his approach to technology in SF, and his sympathetic treatment of human beings.

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

Cover art by Thomas Canty

Design by Elizabeth Story