Or why you should read Slow River
by Nicola Griffith
Slow River is a Sci-fi Noir thriller about a kidnapping victim trying to move past her trauma. In the novel, Lore, is trying to rebuild her life by assuming a new identity and finding legitimate work. Once upon a time she was a member of a fantastically wealthy family of environmental technology moguls, and was looking forward to the brightest of futures. But then she was kidnapped and held ransom and when her family failed to pay for her release, she was forced to escape, killing one of her attackers and finding herself injured and naked and lost in a new city. Fearing for her life and unwilling to reconnect with her family, Lore turned to Spanner, a petty criminal and hustler, for protection and a livelihood. But life outside the law, for all of its thrills, is hard, cruel, and dehumanizing and now Lore wants to build an honest life for herself and escape all of the wounds of her past. But to do it she will have to enlist Spanner one more time to pull off one more scam to make it work.
Slow River is unbelievably good. It is a deeply intimate character study that is downright fractal in its details and verisimilitude. The depth of character and the ruthless plausibility of every moment makes the novel live. The intimacy and believability of the novel also make Slow River an intensely arresting read: the stakes are so personal and so well presented that it was handshaking-suspenseful. This is a novel that had me panicking a little when it dawned on me that it was probably more Noir than Sci-fi and that this fact didn't bode well for the protagonist. Slow River is like expertly deployed, weaponized empathy. I really, really enjoyed it.
Slow River also holds the distinction of being the most white-knuckle, gripping Sci-fi story of water remediation I've ever read and the most suspenseful book that also made me wonder if it was still too early in the year to start gardening. Which is to say Slow River, for all of it's drama and tragedy is also a pretty idiosyncratic and unexpected novel.
I really feel that nothing short of explaining the book in it's entirety will really capture just how interesting, elegant, incisive, and gripping Slow River is. I found it irresistible.
Slow River is one of those precious few books I'd recommend to basically anyone. While it is Science Fiction, these elements are pretty understandable and secondary to the gripping personal drama of someone trying to escape and move past traumatic experiences. The hook of the novel, what made it so hard to put down, is, I think, a universally human story about people rebuilding themselves. I frankly cannot recommend Slow River enough.