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Slow Bullets

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From the author of the Revelation Space series comes an interstellar adventure of war, identity, betrayal, and the preservation of civilization itself.

A vast conflict, one that has encompassed hundreds of worlds and solar systems, appears to be finally at an end. A conscripted soldier is beginning to consider her life after the war and the family she has left behind. But for Scur—and for humanity—peace is not to be.

On the brink of the ceasefire, Scur is captured by a renegade war criminal, and left for dead in the ruins of a bunker. She revives aboard a prisoner transport vessel. Something has gone terribly wrong with the ship.

Passengers—combatants from both sides of the war—are waking up from hibernation far too soon. Their memories, embedded in bullets, are the only links to a world which is no longer recognizable. And Scur will be reacquainted with her old enemy, but with much higher stakes than just her own life.

192 pages, Paperback

First published June 1, 2015

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About the author

Alastair Reynolds

281 books8,004 followers
I'm Al, I used to be a space scientist, and now I'm a writer, although for a time the two careers ran in parallel. I started off publishing short stories in the British SF magazine Interzone in the early 90s, then eventually branched into novels. I write about a novel a year and try to write a few short stories as well. Some of my books and stories are set in a consistent future named after Revelation Space, the first novel, but I've done a lot of other things as well and I like to keep things fresh between books.

I was born in Wales, but raised in Cornwall, and then spent time in the north of England and Scotland. I moved to the Netherlands to continue my science career and stayed there for a very long time, before eventually returning to Wales.

In my spare time I am a very keen runner, and I also enjoying hill-walking, birdwatching, horse-riding, guitar and model-making. I also dabble with paints now and then. I met my wife in the Netherlands through a mutual interest in climbing and we married back in Wales. We live surrounded by hills, woods and wildlife, and not too much excitement.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 586 reviews
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,882 reviews16.6k followers
December 12, 2017
Alastair Reynolds, best known for his brilliant Revelation Space series, published Slow Bullets in 2015.

Something of a departure, this is still a tense, intelligent space thriller. Told with wit and raw emotion, Reynolds uses an omnipresent dramatic tension to enhance his minimalistic narration.

The novel opens as an epic space war is concluding. The ceasefire has been called, but some sporadic fighting continues and the protagonist, Scur, finds herself behind enemy lines and at the mercy of a known war criminal.
The story hard cuts to Scur as she awakens from deep hibernation aboard a spaceship. A crewmember explains that the vessel is carrying combatants from both sides and the craft, a luxury liner converted for the military, has experienced navigational problems and other problems.

Reynolds does a better than average job conveying a sense of desperation while also maintaining a survivalist conflict. He also explores themes of isolation, loyalty, justice and humanity.

A good read.

*** A free copy of this book was provided in exchange for an honest review

Profile Image for Karl.
3,258 reviews277 followers
April 28, 2017
Alastair Reynolds has written a large number of books, so I know he can write. However "Slow Bullets" which did have some creative ideas within it's pages let me down. As the story progressed, both the protagonist and the antagonist became more and more cartoonish.

The bad guy was the ultimate evil incarnate who could survive in a spaceship for an extended span of time without food, water and air. Go figure. The heroine, though just an army grunt, can absorb strange technologies quickly and become the leader of a large group of survivors.

What really settled poorly was Mr. Reynolds plot device to make the intergalactic war a religious struggle and his need to espouse religious gobbledegook throughout the center and end of the book while cleverly avoiding much else about the religions that caused all of this crisis.

Quite little thought went into the writing of this book it makes me sad to say, as I have always held Mr. Reynolds in higher regard but I suppose any author can have a swing and a miss with out totally striking out.
Profile Image for Althea Ann.
2,233 reviews1,046 followers
July 6, 2016
Read as part of the Hugo Voters' Packet.
And... I think this one is creeping up past 'Penric's Demon' to get my vote.

A vicious interstellar conflict is coming to an end. A ceasefire has been announced. Unfortunately for one soldier, the enemy who's captured her is infamous for his brutality, and he couldn't care less that hostilities are officially over. Scur fully expects to be tortured to death.

Unexpectedly, however, she awakes from coldsleep aboard a transport ship. A panicked crewmember lets her know that it was relocating a full component of mainly war criminals - but that something has gone wrong. They don't know where they are - or how much time has passed. With brutal 'dregs' from both sides of the war awakening to an uncertain situation, chaos is imminent - unless Scur can seize the opportunity and get all the survivors to pull together.

Very nicely done - well-drawn setting, some good plot twists, excellent pacing. The story bears some definite similarities to Sean Danker's 'Admiral' (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...) - I'd definitely recommend the one for fans of the other - I liked both.
Profile Image for 7jane.
683 reviews268 followers
July 27, 2016
Music: Skinny Puppy - "The Centre Bullet" (because while I like the Tear Garden one, the instrumental(ish) version works the best)

After a long war, during a ceasefire, a soldier named Scur ends up being caught by a war crimnal, Orvin, and left for dead. In what seems like a next moment, she finds herself on a former starliner turned prisoner transporter vessel - Caprice - with a slowly dying computer and waking passengers, mostly war criminals but also some civilians plus some crew. But not only is the computer in a slow-death process; there seems to be a question of where they are (is the planet below the supposed destination planet Tottori or what?) - and *when* are they also. And Orvin is also on the ship, which could cause problems...

This is, in my opinion, a pretty good place to start reading this author. It's a standalone novella, not too long, not loads-and-loads-of-characters and the plot is not too complicated. The more demanding readers (or non-beginners) might find this a little too simple, but if one feels easily-pleased or just wants a first taste, it's not bad. The plot moves steadily, there was no crisis-point that made me stop too long (one flaw in my reading style *lol*).

I kind of grew fond of one of the other main characters, Prad, too.... his skills (a technician who knows the ship and how to handle the computer is very helpful).

I also liked the main theme of the story - the importance, and danger, of memory. The soldiers on the ship have slow bullets in their bodies (which have some life memories, service history, etc.). There's also There's the fact that the book is being written on

So the book, to me, feels much deeper than what I thought when I started it. It seemed at first rather light plot-wise, but the more I think of it, the better it feels. A good place to start reading, yes, and rather beautiful in its own way, too :)
Profile Image for Scott.
292 reviews317 followers
November 23, 2016
I love Alistair Reynolds, but I did not love Slow Bullets.

Reynolds is the writer who re-ignited my passion for SF and I have huge respect for his work, which I regard with a mix of warmth and awe. Revelation Space reminded me how truly great this genre can be, the vast vistas of the imagination that it commands and the genuine sense of wonder it can elicit in a reader.

Sadly, Slow Bullets left a vague, unsatisfied feeling in the place where my sense of wonder usually resides.

The premise behind this fairly short novella (96 pages) is pretty straightforward. Scur, a soldier fighting in an interstellar civil war is captured and tortured by the enemy. After her opponents flee at the approach of a rescue ship she passes out, and awakens in a hibernation pod on an unfamiliar starship. It soon becomes apparent that the ship, loaded with war criminals from both sides of the war, is lost, damaged and has been in space for vastly longer than had been planned, leaving Scur to both establish order and assist in discovering the reasons for their predicament.

So far so good- a mysterious drifting starship packed to the warp drives with confused, violent war criminals from opposing armies is a nice setup with some real tension. Alas, the tension generally fails to materialize, and much of the story and characters felt sketched out, rather than painted in the full baroque Reynolds style I've become accustomed to. Scur's single minded pursuit of her torturer, a man named Orvin, feels thin, as does Orvin himself- as an antagonist he's pretty small-fry, and I failed to see how one miscreant on a vessel full of murderous criminals should be seen to be any worse than his shipmates. The other characters that pass through the story are also pretty vague, and I didn't really feel I knew anything about them, or really cared if they were tossed out an airlock or caught a laser beam or two.

There seemed to me to be numerous lost opportunities for raising the story's stakes. Early on Scur is threatened with a device that will slowly and painfully kill her over a long period of time, a solid setup that has been used to great effect in numerous books. A dying/crippled protagonist chasing a cure/revenge/antidote against the clock may be a wee bit of a cliché, but it sure propels things along in a story. However, Scur's issue is resolved very quickly, leaving her motives and drive somewhat underpowered for this reader.

In saying all this, the book is a quick, entertaining read and it flows well. The mystery behind the ship's inability to contact civilization is interesting, if not quite pulse-hastening, and the ending draws everything together. Ultimately however, the story never really scales the heights it could potentially have reached.

Reynold's sterling work in his Revelation Space universe sets a pretty high bar, and it may be unfair to measure his other work against it, but Slow Bullets isn't really in the same league. It's an entertaining story, but I don't imagine it will reignite the long-dormant science-fiction passions of any readers.
Profile Image for Dirk Grobbelaar.
554 reviews1,093 followers
January 20, 2023
Quite good, really. An interesting take on the stranded spaceship scenario. Like I have mentioned in another of my reviews, I don't think this author can write a bad book if he tried, but then again I haven't read all his works yet. In the end, it wasn't quite a five star read for me, for the simple reason I prefer his longer form works, like the Revelation Space novels.

Still, Slow Bullets is good stuff, and in the end you are left with the question of the narrator's reliability. Reynolds is clever like that.
Profile Image for Michael.
1,094 reviews1,538 followers
November 24, 2016
I liked being pleasantly surprised with this tale, even though my expectations were shaken at first it straying far from the exciting space opera I have enjoyed from him before. This is a novella and the setting is effectively constrained to a closed society aboard a disabled space ship. Reynolds for me has been a very reliable source of long, imaginative space operas with multiple lead characters, plots with a lot of social complexities, and a fair play on cool tech, artificial intelligence, and human enhancements but only occasionally aliens. Here we get mostly the social complexity.

Our hero, Scur, is a conscripted soldier in a multiplanetary war, who in the first scenes is undergoing torture by an enemy soldier after a cease fire has been called. He is set up with an explosive “slow bullet”, a computer pellet inserted into the body and left to die. He wakes up out of hibernation on a large transport spaceship with hundreds of others also waking. He soon learns most of revived people are prisoners of war from both sides and others are war criminals or civilians. The ship is in an unstable state of function in orbit over a planet with no sign of civilization. Soon the awakened people start trying to kill each other. Scur is crafty enough and to get an edge of control over the awakened group through an alliance with the one crew member on the scene. They help foster some teamwork, but divisions over competition for power and survival are a perpetual threat. Plus the man who tortured Scur in the war is aboard somewhere.

They learn that the wormhole trip has gone awry and they have been in hibernation a long time. The plot moves into the territory seen in post-apocalyptic tales where a set of survivors have to consider making a permanent human society of themselves. The ships computer systems are failing and the issue of how to preserve all human knowledge and cultural identity that lies with it weighs on them. The enemy soldiers from the war have a similar religion, but their bible versions diverge in interpretations that fuel an ancient cultural conflict, sort of an analogy to the Shiites and Sunis. What does it takes for them to become one people? Do they sacrifice all to repair the ship for a risky jump somewhere or invest all effort to colonize this unknown planet? They never get to that point. They get focused on finding an outsider who may be among them, one who can explain whether their being marooned was caused on purpose. Also, they must develop a justice system to deal with Scur’s enemy, who has committed a murder.

This tale was well done and I savored it for mining its constrained purview, its microcosm. It has a bit of the flavor of Longyear’s “Enemy Mine”, which features a pair of combatants from an inter-species space war getting marooned on a miserable planet and learning to work together. It also touches some of the angles in Haldeman’s “Forever War”, in which soldiers in a space war struggle with the disconnect from their homes due to time passage differences associated with space travel. I find affinity as well with space operas by Greg Bear where human factions square off in a space colony situation, like in “Eon”, or, an odd one, humans stuck on a comet (“Heart of the Comet”). This is good company for my pleasure meter.

This book was provided for review by the publisher through the Netgalley program.
Profile Image for Veeral.
366 reviews133 followers
June 9, 2015

I personally have always felt that it is relatively difficult to write a shorter novel than a longer one that can get a reader fully invested to care for the fate of its characters. The plot moves along at a brisk pace, allowing little leeway for any substantial character development. And if a writer opts for it anyway, he/she might have to sacrifice the subplots, hence making the plot linear, and reminding a reader that it is after all, a short book.

Alastair Reynolds' "Slow Bullets" is an exception to that. When I requested this book from Netgalley, to be honest, I wasn't expecting something on a scale of his other sprawling space operas. I was just hoping for a good story (which I actually got), but not something this surprising.

The book primarily follows the female protagonist Scur, a conscripted soldier, who after being captured by a criminal, wakes up on a prison ship. All the soldiers are embedded with a memory bullet (hence the name "Slow Bullets"). Scur's bullet seems to have been tampered with. She has to prove her real identity to the sole survivor of the ship's crew and wants to find the man who captured her.

But when you guess that this was going to be just another revenge tale (nevertheless a good one), the story takes a turn for something grander, totally unexpected, and hence it once again proves why Reynolds is considered as one of the best modern writers of science fiction.

On the ship, a terrible fact is discovered. Thousands of years have passed. The civilization has crumbled. The only records of the past civilization that might have survived are only in the ship's memory and in the slow bullets.

If the civilization has to start all over again, what memories would you preserve to create a world better than the one that has obliterated itself? Would it be better to leave out religion? But who’s to say that some despot wouldn’t try to fill the gap with his own cult-image? That has happened many a times even in our real world.

Alastair Reynolds makes many observations like this in “Slow Bullets” and hence it transcends many a doorstopper space operas despite its limited availability of space.

I am sure that fans of Reynolds wouldn’t wait for a recommendation to read this book, but if you happen to be a first time Reynolds reader, I recommend you to try “Slow Bullets” first. It’ll give you the same feeling of reading a grand Alastair Reynolds novel, but with the added benefit of completing it in a very short time.

**Disclosure: I requested and received an ARC from author/publisher through Netgalley.**
Profile Image for Jason.
1,179 reviews258 followers
July 13, 2015
4 Stars

Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds is a fantastic little slice of what one of my favorite authors is all about. This easy read novella touches on many of the areas that make Reynolds such a great writer. This is a science fiction story that is lean on the math and physics, making it very accessible to new readers. This is not a hard science story like much of what Reynolds writes.

Slow Bullets is a story about a spaceship filled with war criminals that finds itself wrecked in a place that they did not expect. I am glad that I didn't read any spoilers in others reviews as this survival story is much better experienced, not knowing what is going to happen. Scur is likable and easy to identify with as is Prad. The Slow Bullets are a cool concept. I also liked the world building that we were treated to, it is classic Reynolds.

My only gripe with this book was that it was too short. It would probably make for a full length novel. Be that may, this novella has everything to make it a complete read, and a good one. I love Alastair Reynolds and this is a worthy read.
Profile Image for Lata.
3,772 reviews207 followers
June 20, 2017
3.5 stars. Newbie to Reynolds work, so I figured one of his shorter works might be interesting to check out. This is a tale of a bunch of former soldiers and convicts waking up from hyposleep (I think that's what the author called it) on a ship, with no idea why and what's going on or where they are. Scur, the main character, narrates, and you find out she was conscripted because of her family's political beliefs. Scur seems hellbent on revenging herself on another soldier who tortured her and left her for dead just at the end of the war, and who is on board also. There are a number of surprises. no, shocks, awaiting the passengers and crew of the ship regarding their situation. Reynolds focuses on a few of the passengers, and one crew member, Prad (whom I quite liked.) The story was tense, and I found it interesting wondering what paths Scur and her shipmates would take at each new turning point/setback.
Regarding the audio, I was not thrilled with Susan Duerden's narration, as she had a slightly odd way of finishing each sentence on a slightly higher note.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,100 followers
June 2, 2015
The ending makes the tale, and this one is no different. I fell the familiar immersive narrative and enjoyed the stolid pacing that was the MO of the narrator, only slightly interested in the idea of slow bullets, but willing to make a full go of the novel anyway. What I wanted was a Revelation Space novel or novella, and I wasn't misled or disappointed. It did take some time to feel invested, but by the time I was seeing a tale of rebuilding civilization in the microcosm of a slowship carrying a penal colony and following a ship breakdown at the end of the voyage, I was good to go. The next reveal made me try to place them in the greater scheme of the future history, with fascination.

All of that was fine, and good, but it was the end reveal that showed the real meaning of the slow bullet, whether personal, interpersonal, or galactic. And it was Good. I'll probably be thinking about that one for a while.

The end reveal made this novel beautiful. The rest of the action and conflict made the rest of the tale feel a little marginal, even if it was full of historical pathos and a serious push for justice (or forgiveness).

Don't get me wrong, I love tales about trying to preserve knowledge, and this one certainly fits the bill, but it was the human factor, including redemption, however spurious and uncertain, that pulled on my mind.
Profile Image for Milo.
787 reviews85 followers
October 11, 2015
The Review Can Also Be Found Here: http://thefictionalhangout.blogspot.c...

"From the author of the Revelation Space series comes an interstellar adventure of war, identity, betrayal, and the preservation of civilization itself.

A vast conflict, one that has encompassed hundreds of worlds and solar systems, appears to be finally at an end. A conscripted soldier is beginning to consider her life after the war and the family she has left behind. But for Scur—and for humanity—peace is not to be.

On the brink of the ceasefire, Scur is captured by a renegade war criminal, and left for dead in the ruins of a bunker. She revives aboard a prisoner transport vessel. Something has gone terribly wrong with the ship.

Passengers—combatants from both sides of the war—are waking up from hibernation far too soon. Their memories, embedded in bullets, are the only links to a world which is no longer recognizable. And Scur will be reacquainted with her old enemy, but with much higher stakes than just her own life.

This is just going to be a quick review here as Slow Bullets is only a short story, but it’s a very good one. Alastair Reynolds is an author who has put out some consistently brilliant hard sci-fi work, be it Blue Remembered Earth or Revelation Space, and the Slow Bullets looks at an intriguing original universe, merging several themes together and putting a strong female lead, named Scur, at the heart of the conflict, and exploring her capture by a renegade war criminal who hasn’t yet heard about a ceasefire.

If you’re looking to explore Alistair Reynolds’ work but are worried about investing in a full length novel, Slow Bullets is perfect. It’s a quick read and offers a very accessible story to new readers, not feeling like most of the hard science fiction that Reynolds normally writes. The short is unpredictable and enthralling, and the lead character, Scur, is a likeable and well developed protagonist. Reynolds manages to weave a compelling and engaging science fiction short far better than a few full length novels that I’ve read recently, with everything falling into place to work perfectly. It’s amazing how, given the short pagecount, Reynolds is able to develop and expand the world, and blends everything together very well indeed.

Slow Bullets is a confident read from Reynolds that will please fans and newcomers alike, and hopefully it will draw in new readers and encourage them to explore more of the writer’s work. Highly Recommended.

Profile Image for Andrew.
2,232 reviews
June 26, 2018
This is one of those titles I could have sworn I owned and have read - but it seems not the case.

The book is quite a small affair of only 180 pages in a smaller (I am sure there is a proper name for it) format.

That said the story does not hang around and very quickly gets in to the think of it. Now with the no spoilers rule it does make it rather a challenge to comment about the story as basically the thrust of the story is how they deal with a situation they are irreversibly put in.

Now that said how they deal with it is a lesson in both survival and adaptation which I think is both suitably handled and realistically portrayed (no heroes making noble speeches that you know no one in their true minds would believe).

The book is rather short so as you can imagine the focus is pretty tight on what is going on in the immediate vicinity. that said though you have the potential for expanding this out in to a wider story at a later date and considering Alastair Reynolds is making a name for himself as the hard SF author with galaxy spanning stories I do not doubt it for a second.

In short quite a fun days read.
Profile Image for Jamie.
1,196 reviews114 followers
November 15, 2019
Inspiring tale of survival, revenge and redemption in the cold, dark reaches of space in the wake of a war and untold devastation that leaves civilization on the brink of extinction. Reynolds takes on some deep themes, including religion and it's power to embed itself in our psyche, serving to both unite and divide us. "All that's the best and worst in us."
Some of us are saints, and some of us are sinners. And thanks to Scur, we have very little idea of who's who anymore. This is our own special circle of hell, and it comes with metal walls and a skip drive that may blow up the instant we test it. Remind me which part of this isn't already a punishment.
Profile Image for Carbonbased Bookworm.
58 reviews25 followers
January 11, 2020
I just can't give this guy less than 5 stars 🙈.
Of all the brains in this universe, I like his brain the most. Actually, "I like" is complete understatement, to be honest, I am in awe and I can't believe something as magnificient as his brain can even exist.
You may not end up as opssesed with him as I am, but you should at least give him a chance.

All in all, often even 5 stars seem not enough. I would give him all stars in this world because, more than once, he has given stars of other worlds to me.
Profile Image for Raffaello.
171 reviews46 followers
August 3, 2021
"Cercai si dimenticare quei volti. Non volevo ricordare chi era stato troppo ansioso di essere assolto dal proprio passato."

La brevità del testo costringe Reynolds ad alcune scelte che risultano un po' forzate, principalmente per andare a concludere tutte le situazioni in tempo utile...perché la carne al fuoco è sorprendentemente molta per un libro di 140pg.
Tuttavia ogni storyline viene gestita fino alla fine in maniera abbastanza convincente.

Approfondirò sicuramente Reynolds: è riuscito a stuzzicarmi con diversi spunti tutt'altro che banali.

Il racconto a fine libro, Il Margine di Eros Frattini, è caruccio. Si fa leggere.
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,015 followers
April 26, 2015
Received to review via Netgalley

It’s been ages since I read any of Alastair Reynolds’ work, and I think it’s high time for a reread. This novella reminded me of all the things I loved about his series: weird unknowable aliens, amazing tech, mysterious cataclysms, and yes, a strong female character too. And maybe now, with the extra reading and studying I’ve done since, I’ll know more about the science aspect of the fiction as well, and be able to appreciate it more.

This is an engaging read, narrated by a survivor from a war that bears some similarities with conflicts of the modern day: two sides, fighting over different interpretations of a Book, in which there is beauty and power but also the potential for great division. Yet these survivors have to put that aside, because it’s no longer relevant. The story has elements of a generation ship set-up, along with exploration of a mysterious object — in this case, the ship itself, which is suffering from data loss for reasons that, at first, take some understanding.

If you’re really wedded to hard SF, then the Sickening might annoy you, coming as it does without an explanation of the mechanism. I don’t know if it’s explainable or not, but that didn’t matter to me; it was a backdrop for the situation Reynolds created aboard this ship.

There’s something rather dispassionate and unpredictable about the narrator, Scur. I was never sure what she was going to do, what exactly drove her. But I get the sense that that was, in many ways, intentional — and given the way she’s telling her story, unavoidable. Part of the way she’s telling the story bothers me a little — seriously, etching 50,000 words into metal? — but I don’t mind suspension of disbelief, and at least the style matches with that conceit: Scur doesn’t waste her words.

Overall, very enjoyable for me. My sister’s hopping with impatience for it already…

Originally posted here.
Profile Image for Chris  Haught.
580 reviews219 followers
May 25, 2015
I received an eARC of this book from NetGalley and the publisher.

Alastair Reynolds has easily become one of those authors that I've taken an interest in, ever since I read Revelation Space last year. That was a novel that I like quite a bit, even though many parts of it were above my comprehension level. So even though I enjoyed it overall, I became leery of reading more.

Then I saw that this was coming out, a short novel with an interesting premise: a soldier dealing with the aftermath of a war that's just had a ceasefire and not everyone's been told. I was quickly engaged with Scur and her story, and better yet, I understood what was happening! This was some seriously cool space opera as it should be.

I like my science fiction to be heavy on the fiction, with a dash of the science. Or even more than a dash if it's told in such a way that I can follow it. That's what this was, and I would definitely grab up more stories/novels occurring in Scur's universe.
Profile Image for Claudia.
960 reviews555 followers
June 28, 2016
As I got used by now, to my delight, every Al Reynolds’ story comes with a surprise; here I had two: 1) the concept of the slow bullet and 2) the lack of his poetic descriptions and through them, the usual world-building. What stroke me was the way he managed to construct the world just through his characters, through their actions and dialogues.

Scur, a former soldier, finds herself on a ship orbiting some planet, apparently unknown, when she was supposed to be at home, in a world free of war. This is her story, told in cold-blood, with objectivity but also with frustration, one that raises in the reader a sense of desperation, claustrophobia and alienation. It also has its horror tinges, one particular scene will make you hair stand on end.

Moreover, it deals with one’s identity, with sacrifices, lost memories and beliefs. I particularly appreciated the parallel between religion and reality by the role of Trinity, or better said the puppeteer role of it (Trinity being the leadership of Caprice, the prison ship). Like with religion, the faith is there to comfort/’guide’ us but mostly, what we sow is what we reap.
“Those of us with slow bullets, we have the chance to make a difference. But we have to give up what we are. We have to sever ourselves from the past. From everything that mattered to us once, everything that made us what we are. We have to let that go.”

A more profound story than it appears at first glance. The more you think about it, the more you’ll enjoy it. Had been on my to-read list for quite some time, but since it won the Locus this year in its category, I had to see what is about; and as expected, AR never disappoints. A well deserved award for such a complex story.
Profile Image for  Charlie.
477 reviews220 followers
June 2, 2015
Damn this packs a serious punch for a novella. It has a ridiculous amount going for it.

I loved the set up. The good, the bad and the leftovers of a cosmic war are put on board a prison ship and sent out into the universe without their knowledge. We have bits and pieces from both sides of a massive campaign as well as few who were put in to make the numbers up. Imagine that for a second. You’re a good soldier fighting your ass off and all of a sudden your sentenced to prison to fill an efficiency quota. Then you wake up, with no memory of where you are and how you got there, and all sorts of shit is going wrong.

That’s the situation our protagonist finds herself in within the first few pages of the book and when you have a second to take a breath you’ll find that the ride is just getting started. Scur is a feisty and skilled soldier and a pleasure to follow and she is given an equally menacing and unbalanced big bad to face off against. Done badly this could have wound up with that really cheesy Hollywood feel but the writing brims with quality and scientific nuance. It’s tight and fast paced and just long enough to be satisfying.

This if my first taste Reynolds writing and I can’t wait to try some more. It’s sometimes intimidating getting into an established author that has a sizeable body of work behind them. The thought of finding myself adding too my already huge TBR pile is sometimes enough to give me pause so I am really glad I was given the opportunity to jump in on a small scale. I will probably jump into the Revelation Space series or Poseidon's Children Series as both are three books long and all solidly rated.

Follow Alastair Reynolds on Twitter @AquilaRift
Slow Bullets is published by Tachyon Publications @TachyonPub
Profile Image for Gary.
442 reviews194 followers
October 6, 2015
Reynolds is one of my favorite writers of short fiction, though he is mostly known for his epic novels. This novella is what a Space Opera novella should be - a tiny corner of a larger canvas. The tale behind this tale is epic enough for one of Reynolds longer works, but here we only get a single POV narrator relating a quick tale of revenge and redemption in the style of a memoir. Also atypical of Reynolds, the prose here is deliberately flat and dry, with none of the muscularity of his usual style. There is a good reason for this, and it pays off well in the end, but Reynolds fans who expect a little momentum to the language will find the choice curious and maybe a little off-putting. Stick with it, the ending is worth the journey.

As for the story's premise, it's the ol' "waking up on a derelict spaceship with no idea where you are" trope, but the "slow bullet" concept - tiny data capsules injected into soldier's bodies like electronic dog tags - allows Reynolds to explore the usual themes of memory and identity in interesting new ways. This is the kind of story that would make a great Outer Limits episode, if TV still did that sort of thing.

This was a tough one to rate, and I wavered between four and five stars for a bit. The prose style, which is essential to the story's meaning and purpose, also has the effect of draining some of the excitement out of the action and suspense. But the end, as they say, justifies the means, so I'll go ahead and give this story its full due.
Profile Image for Mona.
511 reviews296 followers
July 4, 2015
Too Generic and Formulaic for Me


The whole thing has an unfinished feel to it (well, it is a galley) as if it were knocked out on some write-a-novel program or is a recycled TV script.

This took me forever to read because--well--there wasn't much to get into.  So, since it took so long to read, I might not remember all the details correctly, and I really don't have the heart to go back and check them.  

Scur is a female soldier in some generic war. Orvin, the supposedly evil, but very indistinct, villain, a soldier from the opposing side, captures her and gleefully injects her with two of the slow bullets of the title, after torturing her. They cause pain as they burrow into the body, absorb one's memories, and eventually reach the heart and kill the victim, a process which takes years.  Seems like it takes so long that lots of people survive indefinitely.  Not a compelling enough concept to center an entire book around.  

The war ends, but Scur is still recovering from the wounds inflicted by Orvin.  She's lying around in some generic tunnel on some generic planet.   She falls asleep and wakes up some time later on some huge generic spaceship with no idea how she got there.  Turns out it's a prison ship, but Scur was no war criminal.   Investigating further, she discovers many hibernation pods.   There are a few war criminals on the ship, but most are ordinary soldiers or citizens.  The generic "they" needed to fill the ship as much as possible.   Ok, later Scur finds out that some supposedly terrifying Enemy put out into space some kind of generic shards of some kind of generic material or energy that destroys civilization by cutting off all all electronic communications.
So the ship is a last ditch attempt to save the remnants of humanity.

Scur finds Prad, the ship's tech, and discovers that the ship's functions, including memory, are slowly degrading over time.  Scur shows how generically badass she is by threatening Prad at gunpoint (totally unnecessary, since he seems to be a rather passive person who puts up little resistance).   A ship's council is organized.  It consists of totally forgettable characters with 3 to 5 letter names.   The ship's council decides to preserve memories by writing them on the ship's walls. Scur writes hers in blood (a memorable image).  

Scur tracks down Orvin and has a chance at revenge, but isn't as badass as she pretends to be so she sends him in a one way escape pod down to the surface of the nearest generic planet to "enrich their civilization".  

The disabled ship stumbles through space fleeing The Enemy, who might someday
catch up.

The End.  

The only two characters that were distinct characters and not stick figures were Scur and Prad.

  There were almost no physical descriptions of the characters, other than "male", "female", "tall", "short", "small" and other such generic descriptives.  So it's difficult to picture them.  There's a bit more detail about the ship, so I was able to form a somewhat clearer picture of the ship than of any of its inhabitants.

There's little or no emotion from anyone except Scur, and even her emotions are strangely subdued. It's as if the characters are robots, not people.

There were also several glaring plot inconsistencies.  Example:  towards the end, Prad tells Scur that he's found anomalies in the memories in her slow bullet.  (She'd already removed one of the two bullets herself before being beamed aboard the spaceship). Wait, what?  Weren't we told earlier that Scur had the memories in her remaining bullet erased (for some generically noble reason) and that the ship's memory no longer functions?  Huh?  How did Prad find those "anomalies" then?

I received a galley of this novella from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.  

Please excuse any typos or formatting issues as my computer is broken and I had to write this review on an old and cranky Android phone.          
Profile Image for Estelle.
168 reviews103 followers
March 31, 2015
Just a bit under 200 pages, I found Slow Bullets to be an excellent and tightly-written novella.
In the past, I had only read one other work by Alastair Reynolds, The Prefect, and though I enjoyed it a lot for its plot and characters, I remember being a little bit overwhelmed by it and struggling to finish the book. Since then, I wanted to explore more his "Revelation Space" series, but I couldn't help feeling a bit intimidated by the length of those books.

Slow Bullets was the perfect pick for me not only because it was short, but it really captured my interest from the beginning to the very end, and it gave me a real appreciation for Reynolds' writing and imagination.
The story here is quite simple, but very effective. There is enough action (the surgery-gone-wrong scene was the highlight for me), quite a few plot twists and new characters' introduction to keep the reader engaged.
Talking about the characters, I found Scur, our main protagonist and (unreliable?) narrator to be very compelling. By the end of the book I wanted to know more about her and her past. I've read somewhere she was a recurring character in the Revelation Space, if so, I definitely need to read the rest of the series!

Slow Bullets would be considered as "hard sci-fi", but there was a certain melancholy and beauty in the tone and the themes (ex: one's identity, memory, morality) that really took it to a higher level for me, which is why I would recommend it even to non-scifi readers.

The only reason I'm not giving this novella 5 stars is because it did feel a little bit rushed sometimes, especially regarding some actions / decisions Scur had to make towards the end. I would have appreciated to see more inner struggle. Also, the whole concept of the "bullets" was so intriguing, I wish we could have learned more about that. Maybe in another novel?

In the end, I'm very glad I had the opportunity to read this because it definitely motivated me to read more from this author.
Profile Image for Sara J. (kefuwa).
527 reviews45 followers
December 27, 2015
A nice short sci-fi in space read. Really enjoyed it. Some pretty interesting ideas plus it managed to also have some nice lines in there (literary sci-fi ftw!). Good stuff. I have had this author on my radar for quite awhile now, great to finally be able to sample some of his writing. Definitely pushed his books up on my TBR list.
Profile Image for Ashley.
2,771 reviews1,771 followers
July 31, 2016
Ding ding ding! We have a winner. I don't normally enjoy short stories or novellas, because I like what longer stories bring to the table, but occasionally one hits the spot. This one was just the right length (on the longer side), and it's made me want to push Alastair Reynolds up my TBR. (I've owned a copy of Revelation Space for years and never gotten around to it.) This is definitely getting the top spot in my Hugo ballot.
Profile Image for Alan.
1,121 reviews112 followers
November 14, 2019
Alastair Reynolds' Slow Bullets is brief and self-contained (although a novel's worth of history occurs offstage). Dark and gritty, glittering like the black sand beaches on a cold and distant planet orbiting a red dwarf sun, I found this novella extremely hard to put down despite its grim beginnings. I would set this book alongside John Scalzi's The God Engines—although they're really nothing alike in detail, there's a certain similarity of tone that I think makes them good companion pieces.

Scurelya Timshuk Shunde—Scur, for short—is a soldier, conscripted into an interstellar war which is finally coming to an end. A ceasefire has been declared, and all that remains is for all the far-flung ships involved in the conflict to carry the news. But Scur has been captured by Orvin, who just won't believe that the ceasefire is real. Orvin is one of those soldiers, you see—the ones who feel freed by conflict, liberated by having an enemy, given license to do things to their captives, even when there's no tactical advantage to doing so. Orvin is enormously talented at cruelty, endlessly clever and inventive at torture, if at very little else—and, as such men often seem to be, he is entirely convinced of his own rectitude.

Orvin injects Scur with a "slow bullet"—a modified version of the standard identity archive and black-box recorder that all soldiers (on both sides of the war) carry. This particular slow bullet does not bother with anesthesia as it creeps through Scur's body, an excruciating process that is certain to kill her in the end. Orvin's in a hurry, though, and he makes a mistake. Trusting that the slow bullet will do its job, Orvin leaves Scur alive.

Scur survives, of course—Slow Bullets would be even shorter if she did not. And then things get worse for her. And worse. And still worse. But somehow Scur survives... and Slow Bullets slowly becomes something else, something much better than its opening chapters would imply. Although it remains dark throughout, Reynolds' novella ends up being a paean to perseverance, a testament to Scur's ability to endure in the face of multiple adversities, and—after all—a very good read.
Profile Image for Jeff Raymond.
3,092 reviews181 followers
May 11, 2017
Billed as a novel but surprisingly short, the title refers to a type of space-age torture/execution method involving a slow-moving bullet that moves through your bloodstream before eventually killing you.

The concept underpins the military-esque planetary-system conspiracy behind the plot of this story. I’ve always found Alastair Reynolds to be a mixed bag for me personally, and I can say that this book didn’t really work for me. I think the length was the primary issue – instead of diving full-bore into a story like this or taking a short story route and tightening up the pieces, it instead falls in the middle and doesn’t 100% succeed at anything.

It’s a fast read in part because nothing felt like it was entirely important enough to really spend a lot of energy on. Overall, this was just a miss for me, and I’m a hard pass.
Profile Image for Daniel.
754 reviews74 followers
June 27, 2016
Iskreno receno ovu knjizicu i nije najlakse sumirati a ne pokvariti pa cu reci da je poneta manje u njenom sf setingu i pricu koju pratimo vecim delom i daleko vise poruka koju knjigu prikazuje na samom kraju i stavlja nas u situaciju da razmislimo malo. Vise filozofsko nego bilo sta drugo ali odlicno upakovano. Nema dosade. Slobodno citajte :)
Profile Image for James Morpurgo.
261 reviews13 followers
January 26, 2023
I have had Reynolds on my radar for a few years now and have yet to take the plunge with his bigger sprawling space epics. I decided to test the waters with a novella length story to get a quick sample of what might be on offer at a larger scale.

Slow Bullets had some good space sci fi stuff such as stranded, malfunctioning ship with crew awakening in a time much later than planned, and the Slow Bullets themselves were an interesting concept.

The final act of the story shows that Reynolds can change gears and add depth to the story that wasn't expected.

I'm excited to get round to Revelation Space at some point, perhaps even this year but I may try out a few more novellas or standalones before doing so. Early opinion is that I think I will enjoy most of his volume of work going forwards...
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