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Friday, June 19, 2015

Review: Slow Bullets

In recent years, there's been a proliferation of small press imprints. What these small press imprints try to do is to take short stories or novellas, and use giant fonts, and then publish them as books. This doesn't do very much harm, except tht they usually try to charge full price for such books. This boutique approach seems to work only for genre fiction, where the fan base for an author such as Alastair Reynolds is such that they might be persuaded to pay full price for relatively little value.

Slow Bullets unfortunately comes from just such an imprint. It's clearly experimental fiction: Reynolds strays far afield from the hard science fiction that he's well known for, and sets up the story with a few small premises: a ship has performed a jump that took it into a far future where human civilization is threatened. The ship's computer systems are malfunctioning, and the only way to salvage the situation is to copy data off the systems.

Unfortunately, if you're at all conversant with even the technology of today, you'll know that the premise is ridiculous. Even piss poor smart phones today have 4GB of storage, which is enough to store thousands of books. Sure you can't preserve videos or pictures or even live recordings of music with that little space, but in a crisis situation, you're going to be only concerned with words. As a result the story's technical premise is a shambles and pitiful.

The only redeeming feature of the story is that Reynolds is clearly experimenting with fiction, and the character study of the narrator/protagonist is somewhat interesting, and where the story goes with its (very) lame premise is reflective of his attempt to write a character-based story instead of his usual hard-science approach. Nevertheless, Reynolds isn't great at character development, and in the short space of a novella doesn't really get a chance to do a decent job.

Not recommended, not even for fans of Reynolds. In fact, fans of Reynolds perhaps should especially stay away, as it might diminish your opinion of him after reading.

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