enhanced] DD-B

Book Note: Alastair Reynolds, Slow Bullets

I read this book about 14-May-2016. This is the first time I've read this book. The book is copyright 2015. This note was last modified Wednesday, 18-May-2016 03:22:06 PDT.

This note contains spoilers for the book.


A novella, but published in a trade paperback. 192 pages, so it's in the range of quite a few novels of the further past in SF. It's up for the Hugo this year.

So you wake up in a cold-sleep transport ship, but it's clearly still in transit, and it's clearly in trouble. Long-established tradition in the genre! (Variant of the generation ship in trouble, but less likely to be the fault of the passengers.)

Turns out this ship has some soldiers from both sides of a recently concluded war, and some crew, and some miscellaneous civilians and things. An on examination this particular ship houses many of the suspected war criminals. What great company!

The protagonist, in particular, recognizes a soldier from the other side who tortured her for a while (but neglected to stay around to watch his fun, and she managed to survive and escape).

They find they're in orbit around their destination planet, but that it's changed—glaciated, and doesn't seem very civilized (initially they miss signs of human life entirely).

Then they find a primitive rocket docked to one of their ports, but unoccupied. They eventually find the occupant, and get some of the history. She's spent time in cold sleep herself; they're hundreds of years into the future, and civilization has basically been destroyed by huge sheets of glass floating through, not apparently doing anything, but reducing solar output just enough to kill most civilizations. No communication, no idea what they are. And they haven't been seen again after the first pass. This is left unexplained and uninvestigated—in the book, I mean, the author clearly used them as a plot coupon and doesn't want to look at them too closely.

Protag ends up an unofficial part of the governing council (which she forces into existence), so she gets to see everything and influence it some.

Oh, and the ship is forgetting things gradually. Another plot coupon, but the explanation that the ship is protecting the highest priority data is less stupid than it might be. So there's a movement to transcribe the data onto the walls (they don't have paper any more, it's all electronic), and eventually into their "slow bullets", devices embedded in their bodies that have storage. And some onto their skins.

The slow bullets are kind of used as dog-tags, I guess, though the locator functions are mentioned, without any explanation of how that's compatible with any sort of military operation (I mean, hiding is critical!). Stupid name, anyway.

In the end they send the criminal she recognized down to the planet, where he'll have to help them to survive decently, and they manage to "skip" out to visit other planets even though the navigation network is all down and the state of the ship is uncertain. And in fact they appear to visit a lot of planets, occasionally leaving people on them to try to help. At the end protagonist is going down to spend her last year or two trying to help some planet they're at. I think this is suggesting things improving on planets again (also, the reduction of stellar ouput seems to be passing, despite the mechanism being described as "changing physics").

This is another one that I like less and less the more I think about it. Too many things don't bear thinking about. And I'm so tired of the relentless downer stories, and yeah, I put stories of people hammered flat making a tentative start at recovery in that category. Read hundreds, or thousands. Tired of that!


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David Dyer-Bennet