Slow Bullets — Alastair Reynolds

When he was a graduate student in astronomy, Welsh writer Alastair Reynolds published four short stories that marked the beginning of his career as an author. While working at the European Space Agency, he began work on what was to be his debut novel, Revelation Space. He’s been a published writer for almost 30 years, with over forty published short stories and twelve novels.

But I hadn’t heard of Alastair Reynolds until I saw the cover of Slow Bullets in Tachyon’s catalogue. The cover intrigued me — a spaceship seemingly in good repair that, when examined closely, exhibits signs of decay, over a planet covered in swirling storm clouds that shows no sign of advanced life: no lights twinkling from cities on the night side. No speckling of settlements on the light side.

The description of the novella hooked me as well, with one line in particular: “Their memories, embedded in bullets, are the only links to a world which is no longer recognizable.”

I cracked open the book the minute it arrived at my house, even though it was a few lines down in my “priority” reading list, because something about it called to me. I wanted to hold it; to raise its intriguing cover closer to my eyes and see if there was more to be learned from it. To read its first page.

And on the first page alone, I was sold. It’s been a long while since I felt so strongly about an opening page. In fact, I can’t remember the last book I read whose first page affected me the same way.

So much character and world was built in to those few lines. So much that pulled me in and invested me in the protagonist, who had already lost so much, and would obviously lose more as the story unfolded. So much about a galaxy at war, wherein expression was forbidden.

So I turned the page. Then another. And another. And before long I was sunk deep in Scur’s plight, horrified and enraged for her and the other soldiers subjected to the tortuous slow bullets that shackled them to their duty. And when she was taken prisoner, I shared her terror and was inspired by her bravery.

Then, darkness. And reawakening. And with that awakening, an entirely new set of problems. A villain on the loose, and an unfamiliar universe outside the hull of a dying ship.

The story that Slow Bullets became had me enthralled — it is full of tension, confusion, fear, horror, and loss. It fascinated and inspired me. Most of all, I really, really enjoyed it. With Slow Bullets, I’ve become a fan of Alastair Reynolds. If science fiction, mystery, and political thrillers intrigue you, I highly recommend Slow Bullets-. It’ll sate your hunger as it did mine.