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Slow River [Paperback]

Nicola Griffith
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 20 1996
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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Product Description

From Amazon

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

From Publishers Weekly

Set in a dystopian future, Griffith's second novel involves a woman's search for identity.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't let the "subgenre" label fool you Feb. 12 2004
In SF, unlike its sister genre fantasy, there has been a history of dealing with issues of homosexuality in an unflinching, honest fashion (instead of fantasy's fey princes and twisted perverts) and while those issues have not really grasped mainstream SF, it's always been there, blatantly stated in Samuel Delany writings and others, lurking in Disch, in Ballard, from the sixties and seventies onward, incorporating sexuality matter of factly, almost explicitly so. There have been subgenres, of course, as there are in any major genre, but for the most part it's not really shocking or scandalous to see homosexuality represented in SF. And so awarding the Nebula to this novel both gladdens and confuses me. Gladdens, because it is a fine, tightly constructed novel, exploring its characters with a depth normally reserved for such masters as Margaret Atwood (when it comes to charactization and studies, at least). Confuses, because there is nothing really explicitly "groundbreaking" about it. The plot, while entertaining and thought provoking, breaks no real new ground, either by busting down nonexistent barriers regarding homosexuality in SF or providing a mindwarping new way of looking at the artiface of Story. The story itself, on the surface, is simple. Lore, a children born into a ridiculously wealthy family is kidnapped and tormented. Eventually she escapes and instead of going back to her family tries to live out among society, where she meets master scammer Scanner, among other people. Eventually she tries to form her own identity, working as the lowest employee on the type of thing her own family patented. Read more ›
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5.0 out of 5 stars Transcends genre March 9 2003
Left for dead by her kidnappers, Lore is found by the mysterious woman Spanner, who teaches her to survive by her wits and to live in the dark world of crime. The two become lovers, but Lore wants legitimacy and to heal from her various wounds (her past with her family, her weeks with the kidnappers), so she leaves, taking a new identity, and tries to fit in. Ultimately, Lore cannot run from her demons forever, and she must either choose to stay in the shadows or to face the truths of her past. Set in the not-so-distant future, "Slow River" weaves Lore's pasts and present together into an astonishingly compelling tale. At the heart of the book is the story of a young woman healing from abuse, and the science fiction aspects are simply the setting and enhancing details. "Slow River" is the type of book that transcends whatever genre in which it's placed: it's more than a science fiction story, more than a coming-of-age story, more than a lesbian love story, more than a story of healing from abuse. This is a book that makes one believe in the power of fiction.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Very Disappointing Oct. 31 2001
This book started out interestingly enough, and I figured the plot would make it worth the read. However, after forcing myself through the story (that ended up having a very skimpy plot), I realised the book was nothing more than a dreary commentary on the destruction and despair that lie beneath relationships based primarily on sexual exploration.
I was very disappointed in the book and would definitely warn readers that unless you are a perverted 13 year old looking to get aroused, don't waste your time. And if you _are_ a 13 year old looking to get aroused, you may find looking at pornography to be more fun, unless you're also doing research on Futuristic Sewage Processing Plant Techniques which also takes up a large portion of the book.
I rate this at 1 star only because that is the lowest. Really, I'd say 0 stars. The only reason this book has won awards at all is because the literary community is being politically strongarmed into some crazy form of affirmative action for lesbians and gays.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Made me think differently about gender Oct. 8 2000
What a beautiful novel. Griffith uses the "slow river" analogy to describe the heroine's search for her identity. Lore, the main character, grows up in a wealthy futuristic family. Through a series of images and events (not chronological), the reader gets a superficial picture of Lore's adolescent life. But as the the book progresses, her childhood memories become darker as she discovers the truth that she hides so well from herself.

I thought the novel was particularly rich because it dealt frankly with sexuality. It dealt clearly and truthfully with the complexity of emotion surrounding sex. In one scene Spanner, an abusive lover to Lore, tries to convince Lore that the body is only meat. However, as the novel progresses, the reader discovers that Spanners attitude is the result of a deep self loathing. Lore's self confidence allows her to see that the body is much, much, more and deserving of respect and love.

In some ways this book was rather shocking to me. Not because of the sex scenes, or the homosexuality (I thought that added infinitely to the piece), but because of the way the author transcended gender. Usually we take for granted that certain characteristics are associated with males and females, but in this book the reader sees that many of these characteristics are human- and only easier for one gender to justify (this last part is my interpretation, not something in the novel).

Slow River made me think differently, and I like that above all others things in books.

Lastly, and equally importantly, although languid at times, the book is by no means slow. The plot is engaging, and the science fiction is plausible and interesting.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Slow River
Griffith is a poet with the heart of a victim who survives. This is a novel about intimate abuse, and it is gritty and close-up and provocative in its intense and lyrical flow. Read more
Published on Sept. 16 2011 by Joe Boudreault
1.0 out of 5 stars be warned
i was very disappointed in the book, and amazed that it won a nebula. the science fiction aspects are minimal and mainly related to near-future waste management methods. Read more
Published on Feb. 4 2003 by J. Vacek
5.0 out of 5 stars exceptional reading
Not normally a science fiction reader I felt compelled to give this book a shot after reading Nicola's book The Blue Place. Read more
Published on Oct. 21 2002 by Sandi
5.0 out of 5 stars Keep you on your toes futuristic sci-fi page turner
I am a new Nicola Griffith convert. After reading a Blue Place and Stay, I searched for more of Griffith's works. I am not usually interested in sci-fi or futuristic novels. Read more
Published on June 1 2002 by J. Koscher
4.0 out of 5 stars Different but good...
The main character Lore has depth, but it is almost as if the author doesn't know what to do with it. Read more
Published on Aug. 11 2001 by Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars Bore
This is one of the most boring science fiction novels I have ever read. The story just kind of plods along. Read more
Published on Aug. 1 2001 by Escott Fleming
2.0 out of 5 stars Did Not Dig It
This book was well-written enough that I didn't trip over my eyeballs or anything, but frankly I didn't see the point. Read more
Published on Feb. 22 2001 by Ben
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best
Nicola Griffith can write. Every word she writes has a purpose and is carefully chosen. The character development in this novel, and really, everything of hers that I've read, is... Read more
Published on Dec 19 2000 by C. Boeck
5.0 out of 5 stars A soul is never lost
In this wonderful book, there is so much emotion explaned. Being a sci-fi novel has nothing to do with the way in which the author discribes every detail in Lores life. Read more
Published on Dec 5 2000 by "luckyhart"
5.0 out of 5 stars Left me feeling good for reasons unbeknownst to me...
I had read and loved Ammonite, which led me to Slow River. I wasn't really sure what I was getting into...but it was this very pleasant and facinating experience. Read more
Published on Oct. 19 2000 by "landera"
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