cover image Slow Bullets

Slow Bullets

Alastair Reynolds. Tachyon (Legato, dist.), $14.95 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-61696-193-0

An interstellar war has just come to an end, but some violence-loving soldiers are reluctant to stand down. Scur, separated from her unit, is captured and tortured by the sadistic Orvin. After passing out, she awakens from suspended animation to find herself on an enormous starship floating dead in space about 1,000 years in the future. Other than the hapless crew, who have also just revived, the ship is now inhabited by hundreds of former soldiers, war criminals (including Orvin), and civilians, none of whom know why they’re there or where in space they are. Scur quickly takes charge, hoping to preserve order, to figure out why they’re on board in the first place, and to enact vengeance on the malignant Orvin. This is an odd tale, stylized and almost gothic in its sensibilities, reminiscent of Greg Bear’s Hull Zero Three in its willingness to mystify its audience and leave its shipboard mysteries unsolved. Scur is not a particularly appealing protagonist, but her growth from embittered grunt to legitimate leader is worth following. Reynolds (Poseidon’s Wake) has a loyal base of hard-SF fans, and this novella, though relatively minor, should satisfy them. (June)