SLOW RIVER Paperback – 1 Oct 2003
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Slow River won both the Nebula Award and the Lambda Literary Award for author Nicola Griffith. The book's near-future setting and devices place it firmly on the science fiction shelves, and the characters' matter-of-fact sexuality further label it as lesbian SF. But make no mistake, Slow River is no subgenre throwaway. Griffith's skill at weaving temporal threads through the plot bring protagonist Lore van de Oest tragically to life, and you will genuinely care about her in the end. Born into a bioengineering family made wealthy by cleaning up after humanity, Lore leads a life of privilege and power. Riches don't bring happiness, though, and the van de Oest family hides its share of dark secrets. Lore is kidnapped, but escapes from her captors when she realizes her family isn't going to pay the ransom. Naked, alone, and wounded, she is saved by the brutally street-smart Spanner, who teaches Lore to survive by exploiting the Net's (and human beings') weaknesses. To learn to trust, though, Lore must face her demons, one by one, until she can begin again.
Griffith's biotech-science details are accurate, and she fits them smoothly into the story in the manner of a cyberpunk master. This novel's real strength is its characters, though. The van de Oest family, Spanner, even characters who appear only briefly, are all distinct and consistent--not to mention very human. Lore herself seems so personal that Griffith's note about the story's disturbing aspects not being autobiographical was probably wise. Slow River is more than good enough to transcend genre and appeal to both science fiction fans and a broader audience looking for an excellent, character-driven sci-fi story. -- Therese Littleton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Thrilling...A stately measured voyage down the secret streams inside us all...Packed with memorable events."
"Displaying a mastery of craft...Griffith has fashioned a pacan to the human spirit, engaging both the mind and heart."
"With her rich imagination, Griffith has created an intriguing world and a character who not only makes her way through it with boldness and creativity, but takes the time to reflect as she goes."
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Top Customer Reviews
From this strong start, the novel can be an equally fascinating and baffling read. The story is split into sections with Lore's first person narrative of events and then flashbacks in the third person. The flashbacks deal with how Lore gets to know Spanner and of Lore's family life. In all the narrative threads it's evident that dark and twisted motives are being slowly revealed.
Lore almost leaps off the page as a powerful character who is intelligent, educated, worldly and yet isolated, controlled and vulnerable. Used to living in a manipulative environment she finds it easy to spot in others. Her view of relationships in her family, people from the threatening, criminal world she comes to know and then everyday work life builds a lot of tension and draws you into the story.
The author does do a great job of creating a plausible, not too distant, future and generally avoids over-detailed explanations of technology so that everything is smoothly integrated (with one glaring exception). It's also enjoyable to have world spanning locations included in the flashback sequences - they go from lush subtropical islands to barren deserts.
For those good points, there are places where the novel doesn't work so well.
Spanner shows far less depth in characterisation than Lore.Read more ›
Then there is the element of purification and redemption. Lore's family made their money from waste water treatment, and later on Lore herself goes to work as a menial in such a facility. Lots of rain, lots of showering, lots of guilt and self-loathing.
And there are the bodily fluids - feminine intimacy is an important part of the book. For this is a feminist book about a girl's relationships with her family and other women. Indeed it's not clear to me why Griffith chose to dress the story up as science fiction - she could easily have set the same tale firmly in the present. But I suppose I wouldn't have read it then, or even have heard of it.
Which could be the reason, of course. Griffith is clearly scientifically literate. Perhaps she wanted techie men like myself to give it a read.
I hesitated between three and four stars. The writing and the characterisation are really pretty good. But in the end the interest in the story to a techie guy made me lean to a "not bad".