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Slow River by Nicola Griffith

Slow River (1995)

by Nicola Griffith

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Lore is the privileged daughter of a wealthy family, but her life changes when she is kidnapped and her family won't pay the ransom. After escaping her kidnappers, Lore falls in with Spanner, who gets her involved in more and more illicit activities. Lore finally breaks away from Spanner and sets out to build a new identity through a job at a wastewater treatment plant and a burgeoning romance. The story is revealed through three separate intertwined storylines going through the three phases of Lore's life: up to and including the kidnapping; with Spanner; and after Spanner. This is a slow-moving, character-driven story depicting a near-future world where the privileged few are even more separated from everyone else, who are often the victims of their capriciousness. Although romance is an integral part of the plot, this doesn't feel like a book about lesbians; rather, Lore just happens to be a lesbian, and having relationships is part of her development as a person. I mostly enjoyed the story but I wasn't blown away, and I found the big reveal about the abuse that happened in Lore's childhood to be somewhat unconvincing as depicted, which tainted the overall reading experience for me. ( )
  sturlington | Nov 19, 2015 |
Tanner Jenkins

Book Review of Slow River

Lore, a young woman, is taken captive and held for ransom. She is abused, mistreated, and gets her identity chip taken, which holds her life information. Lore’s rich parents don’t pay the ransom and she eventually escapes on her own. She’s free of the men but is alone and weak and decides to hide. Luckily, a woman named Spanner heard Lore as she walked by and takes Lore back to her flat. Spanner helps her recover in secret since it’s illegal to not have an identity. When Lore is healthy enough she works for Spanner to try and pay her back for the help she’s received. Spanner’s job isn’t exactly legal so she found a way to get Lore a replacement identity. As time goes on Lore finds herself faced with hard situations, pressed for money and feeling alone. Throughout the book Lore reflects on her childhood spent with her family and realizes she’s not the person she was raised to be. Out on her own, she is able to make her own choices and find out who she really is. I feel like people who like sci-fi or books that have flash back would enjoy Slow River.
  jenkitan | Mar 26, 2015 |
This is the 2nd Griffith book I have read and she continues to impress. Love, kidnapping, murder, stolen identities, drug use, nano-tech, sewage treatment, and kinky sex all play parts in this exquisitely detailed story. Griffith imbues her protagonist with a strong voice and crafts a near-future world that is not all that far removed from ours. The reader gains perspective of current and past events via shifts between first-person and third-person narrative; a tough thing to pull off but Griffith handles it with such adroitness that, instead of confusing, it enhances the reading experience. Even though these shifts often come between one paragraph and the next, within a few words it is crystal clear exactly where & when we are in the narrative. This is quite a feat that really added to my enjoyment of the book.

Slow River is aptly named as the pace is definitely not fast. On the other hand, the characters and settings spring to life and the pages turn quickly - all due to the wonderful writing style. The fact that Griffith won the Nebula in 1996 for this work, beating out two of my favorite authors, (Neal Stephenson and Tim Powers), comes as no surprise -- Slow River is a very good book. ( )
  ScoLgo | Dec 19, 2014 |
good detail, fine writing, fairly ambitious, but in the end this didn't quite work for me. i guess at some point i started to question too many of the protagonist's choices, and as a result her character and her arc didn't hold together for me in a believable way. i like this author a whole lot, though, and she's always worth the read. ( )
  macha | Nov 1, 2014 |
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For Kelley, my hoard.
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At the heart of the city was a river.
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Book description
She awoke in an alley to the splash of rain. She was naked, a foot-long gash in her back was still bleeding, and her identity implant was gone. Lore Van Oesterling had been the daughter of one of the world's most powerful families...and now she was nobody, and she had to hide.

Then out of the rain walked Spanner, predator and thief, who took her in, cared for her wound, and taught her how to reinvent herself again and again. No one could find Lore now: not the police, not her family, and not the kidnappers who had left her in that alley to die. She had escaped...but the cost of her newfound freedom was crime and deception, and she paid it over and over again, until she had become someone she loathed.

Lore had a choice: She could stay in the shadows, stay with Spanner...and risk losing herself forever. Or she could leave Spanner and find herself again by becoming someone else: stealing the identity implant of a dead woman, taking over her life, and creating a new future.

But to start again, Lore required Spanner's talents--Spanner, who needed her and hated her, and who always had a price. And even as Lore agreed to play Spanner's game one final time, she found that there was still the price of being a Van Oesterling to be paid. Only by confronting her family, her past, and her own demons could Lore meld together who she had once been, who she had become, and the person she intended to be...
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0345395379, Paperback)

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 to tragic 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 (and human) 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 queer SF readers and a more broad audience looking for an excellent character-driven SF story. --Therese Littleton

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:37 -0400)

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Awakening in an alley, naked, bleeding, and missing her identity implant, Lore Van Oesterling, the daughter of a powerful family, finds a chance to reinvent herself in expert data pirate Spanner.

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