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Slow River by Nicola Griffith
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Slow River (1995)

by Nicola Griffith

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This is quite an interesting book, on the one hand for its very specific subject, water reemediation and a family-owned corporation which deals in it. On the other hand, its structure is also peculiar as it jumps back and forth in time, between the "now" parts in first person and past parts in 3rd (which is well suited to the situation since the protegonist feels as if all that happened to a different person). There are several interesting characters, in particular Spanner, BUT, there was someething about the story that seemed a little too cold, so it didn't have the emotional impact (for me at least) that it should have had. ( )
  kinsey_m | Dec 25, 2013 |
People have been telling me for years I should be reading some Nicola Griffith. They were right.

Slow River is the story of stratospherically rich kid Lore, who has just escaped from the seemingly homicidal maniacs who kidnapped her. She finds herself abandoned, severely injured, in a city; she's taken in by Spanner, a data pirate living not so much on the criminal fringes of society as some way beyond them. After Lore has recovered from her injury she naturally becomes Spanner's apprentice in all sorts of illegal activities — data piracy when times are good, prostitution when they're not. But really Lore wants to make her way in the world honestly. Her family are this world's equivalents of Monsanto, except working in the field of sewage disposal rather than genetic modification; and so Lore gets herself a job at a sewage plant. There ensue some of the most exciting passages — I kid you not — that I've ever read set in a sewage plant! Of course, it's necessary that Lore's life get properly sorted out . . .

In a way this is the half — or far more than half — of the story that Ayn Rand never thought to tell in her clunky great doorstop Atlas Shrugged: it's the corollary nightmare, if you like, to Rand's fascistic wet dream. Lore's extended family forms part of the hyper-rich plutocracy for whom virtually anything is possible and/or obtainable; they and their kind essentially live in a different universe from the one occupied by the rest of the population, who must struggle to survive while carrying not just the burdens of their own lives but also, in effect, the plutocrats' burdens — the consequences of the plutocrats' failure to fulfil their own personal responsibilities. In a sense, then, this is a very political novel; but it doesn't read that way. Instead, it comes across as a very human tale, as we follow the fortunes of the by-no-means-flawless Lore.

And the book is really quite beautifully written. The prose is a joy to read. More, please. ( )
2 vote JohnGrant1 | Aug 11, 2013 |
I don't think I read the summary of Slow River when I bought it. It wasn't familiar at all when I started reading it, anyway. And I... kind of liked that. Everything was a surprise. I loved the careful unfolding of the threefold narrative, the careful bringing to light of secrets you begin to feel you should've known all along. And I loved that LGBT relationships were normal, just taken for granted. I loved that the main character learns all sorts of things about privilege and the lack of it.

I even loved the slow plot. I never thought I'd find a book focused on a water remediation plant and the family that own the technology surrounding it so fascinating, but it really was. I love it when someone takes something so necessary but unseen to our modern lives and just expands it a little, showing how vital it is and could be.

Very much looking forward to the other Nicola Griffith books I have, now.
1 vote shanaqui | Jul 2, 2013 |
Deserves every accolade that has been heaped upon it. Slow River is gorgeous and compelling; I was fascinated by the world and the viewpoint character within a dozen pages. Griffith handles her three-to-four storylines really well; you can always tell which one is going on within a sentence or two in each section, which is something this is really hard and which drives me crazy.

I am not sure how I feel about the abuse or dubcon subplots (I definitely would've appreciated some warning about them before starting the book), but they're handled about as well as I could reasonably expect (which is to say: better than pretty much any commercially-published book I've read in a long, long while — compared to [b:Deerskin|8087|Deerskin|Robin McKinley|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1165652591s/8087.jpg|2321293], this is Scarleteen, and I mean that as a compliment). The infodumps about water filtration are just barely endurable because (a) I love characters who are competent and Lore pushes that button and (b) there's a moment when Griffith pretty much admits, "I know, you don't give a shit and you've been skimming all of this. It's okay."

Also: so many lesbians. Everyone is a lesbian! It is awesome. ( )
1 vote cricketbats | Apr 18, 2013 |
Liked it a great deal: gripping, hard to put down. The flipping back and forth in narrative time worked well. I also liked the fact that the main character was uncomplicatedly gay; it was done as something normal enough not to need commenting on, as was the case with her uncle who was in a gay marriage.

As sometimes can be the case, the protagonist was a bit too all-round capable and competent for strict reality, but it was backed up well with the plot and character development, and all loose knots were satisfactorily tied. Will look out for more by this author. ( )
  comixminx | Apr 5, 2013 |
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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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:05:50 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

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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