Thursday, April 01, 2010

Slow River

Rivers were the source of civilization, the scenes of all beginnings and endings in ancient times. Babies were carried to the banks to be washed, bodies were laid on biers and floated away. Births and deaths were usually communal affairs, but I was here alone.
- Nicola Griffith, Slow River, p 3

As I read this novel written by Nicola Griffith I was impressed with the structure--the way the author slowly unfolded the story of Lore and her two lives. It took some patience, but that patience was rewarded as the story came together with an exciting climax that was effective and true to the details that had gone before. The basic story is that of Lore van de Oest, the daughter of one of the most powerful families in the world, who awakens naked in an alley with a foot-long gash in her back. Her identity implant is gone and is without money after an unsuccessful kidnapping scam. A woman named Spanner happens by and takes Lore home. Spanner, who is an expert in identity theft, is in perfect position to help Lore out as long as Lore agrees to pay her back. Lore lucks out with a fake identity that matches her knowledge enough that she gets a job working on the same equipment that her family sells, the van de Oest sewer processing system. Lore, now under the ID of Bird, finds herself in the middle of a sabotage and corporate intrigue with her real ID at risk and an unhealthy debt to Spanner. The author effectively creates a future world that is on the verge of being overwhelmed with ecological disaster, setting the heroine in the center of the battle. The result is an excellent novel (winner of both the Nebula and Lambda Literary Awards) of speculative fiction that reminded me of the writing of Doris Lessing in this genre.

Slow River by Nicola Griffith. Ballantine Books, New York. 1996 (1995)

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