Review: Slow Bullets

Posted: May 26, 2015 by in Books We Like (4/5 single_star) Meta: Alastair Reynolds, Science Fiction

Price points are a topic of interest for me when it comes to publishing. Why are some stories priced as they are while others of equal length are so much cheaper or more expensive? This is especially relevant in today’s market where the opportunity to sell stories with lengths in the “middle ranges” (novellas, novelettes) becomes more attainable, when in yesteryear’s market they just weren’t viable options. It’s interesting, and sometimes sardonically humorous to me, where those prices are set. I’m one of those that thinks that shorter fiction is meant to draw readers toward your larger fiction, which is where you make the large majority of your money. So, for me, shorter fiction should be pretty cheap. Thus, even though Alastair Reynolds is one of my absolute favorite Science Fiction authors, I was really surprised and somewhat put off by the price point of this book.

SLOW BULLETS (Amazon) is a novelette/novella (long short story? I get all messed up with relaying technical publication definitions to the general-reading populace…) that was interesting and somewhat thought-provoking, but not necessarily my favorite piece of this favorite author of mine that dealt with themes of revenge and sacrifice in a far-off time and place. Go figure. 🙂

Scurelya Shunde is a soldier in an army fighting a galactic war that suddenly declares peacetime. Word doesn’t exactly travel instantaneously in a glactic war though, so the announcement takes time to travel and in the interim Scur is caught by a big bad guy, Orvin, from the opposition that is known for his wanton torture and slaughter of those he captures. Orvin gets quickly to work and injects a second “slow bullet” into Scur’s leg. The first having been inserted by the army that she belongs to, is a way to store data about the person it is within and also acts as a deterrent for deserters. For these slow bullets, that inchworm through your body until they arrive next to heart, can be triggered to explode.

The second bullet that Orvin inserts into her, however, isn’t going to wait to end her.

The ideas that Reynolds works with in this story are intriguing to say the least. Not only with the concept of the slow bullets and what they mean to soldiers in an army, but also with what happens to all the sides of a galactic war when the galactic war has stopped its bloody grind. Who’s to blame and need we continue to point fingers? When it comes down to the end does any of this really matter any more?

Characterization is pretty simple but as straight to the point as it usually is for Reynold’s work. He paints the several secondary characters as much as they need to be. Scur is kind of the go-getter. Not much phases her. She sees something and gets it done no matter the cost. A decent kind of character to be following through this story.

The ideas that Reynolds works with in SLOW BULLETS are intriguing: What happens when the bloody, galactic war end. Intriguing, but maybe not worth the price

Although the story was always clear and to the point, I did feel like it could have used a little more fleshing out. Conversations were frequently clipped and missing some of the helpful fill in that makes them feel more like interactions between people instead of just a bunch of talking heads. There are a couple of points also, where a decent amount of time has passed. These transitions were somewhat jarring and probably could have been helped along a little.

The ending though was a bit of a let down for me. Maybe I missed the point, but there wasn’t much of an impact for me. Then again, maybe I was just looking too much for an impact that didn’t need to be there because this was short Science Fiction. Guess I’ve just come to expect a little more from this guy.

In the end, a story that that was interesting and worthwhile, but for the price, I don’t think I’d encourage people too readily to indulge in this one unless they’re really hard-core fans of Reynolds’s work.

  • Recommended Age: 16+, I guess
  • Language: Most for f-words, although there's not much otherwise
  • Violence: Doesn't get very gory, but there's some violence that results from the bad guy's efforts
  • Sex: Nope

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