Slow River

Slow River

4.8 7
by Nicola Griffith

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Nicola Griffith, winner of the Tiptree Award and the Lambda Award for her widely acclaimed first novel Ammonite, now turns her attention closer to the present in Slow River, the dark and intensely involving story of a young woman's struggle for survival and independence on the gritty underside of a near-future Europe.
She awoke in an alley to the splash of rain.


Nicola Griffith, winner of the Tiptree Award and the Lambda Award for her widely acclaimed first novel Ammonite, now turns her attention closer to the present in Slow River, the dark and intensely involving story of a young woman's struggle for survival and independence on the gritty underside of a near-future Europe.
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 de Oest was the daughter of one of the world's most powerful families...and now she was nobody.
Then out of the rain walked Spanner, an expert data pirate who took her in, cared for her wounds, and gave her the freedom to reinvent herself again and again. No one could find Lore if she didn't want to be found: not the police, not her family, and not the kidnappers who had left her in that alley to die. She had escaped...but she paid for her newfound freedom in crime, deception, and degradation--over and over again.
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 inventing her 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 games one final time, she found that there was still the price of being a Van de Oest to be paid. Only by confronting her past, her family, and her own demons could Lore meld together who she had once been, who she had become, and the person she intended to be....
In Slow River, Nicola Griffith skillfully takes us deep into the mind and heart of her complex protagonist, where the past must be reconciled with the present if the future is ever to offer solid ground. Slow River poses a question we all hope never to need to answer: Who are you when you have nothing left?

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Set in a dystopian future, Griffith's second novel involves a woman's search for identity. (Aug.)
VOYA - Marcia Mann
Set in the near future, Slow River is the story of Lore van de Oest. The youngest member of a very wealthy European family, Lore is kidnapped and held hostage for several weeks before being turned loose by the kidnappers when her family fails to pay the demanded ransom. The narrative actually begins when Lore is dumped, naked and injured, by the river in an unfamiliar city. She is rescued by Spanner, an amoral petty criminal who takes advantage of Lore's dependence on her to drag Lore into a life of crime and prositution. Most of the story is told by Lore, but flashbacks which depict Lore's privileged upbringing and the kidnapping are told in the third person. Distracting at first, Griffith manages to blend the two views together in the end. Lore's work in a water remediation plant is described in great detail, which may bore some readers. Themes such as prostitution, drug use, corporate responsibility, and the variety of moral dilemmas which face Lore throughout the course of the novel make this a book for older readers. VOYA Codes: 4Q 2P S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses, Broad general YA appeal, Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
Carl Hays
Lore Van Oesterling is the wealthy daughter of a powerful bioengineering magnate who, inexplicably, refuses to pay the ransom when she is kidnapped. After escaping and killing one of her captors, Lore allows herself to be taken in and supported by Spanner, a computer data thief, rather than return to the family she now despises. Using her black market connections to obtain stolen personal identity chips, Spanner supplies Lore with a different name and a work history that help her land a job in a water treatment plant. However, as Lore becomes more enmeshed in Spanner's corrupt business dealings and her suspicions about her real purpose at the treatment plant grow, she begins searching for a way back to the world she forsook. Griffith's style is refreshingly lucid and captivating, helping her arouse real concern for her main characters. Yet the book as a whole falls short of the promise of Griffith's award-winning debut, "Ammonite" (1992), and, despite its sf trappings, works best as a human-interest story about the nature of personal identity.

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Random House Publishing Group
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Dorothy Allison
An astonishing piece of work.

Meet the Author

Nicola Griffith is a native of Yorkshire, England, where she earned her beer money teaching women’s self-defense, fronting a band, and arm-wrestling in bars, before discovering writing and moving to the United States. Her immigration case was a fight and ended up making new law: the State Department declared it to be “in the National Interest” for her to live and work in this country. This didn’t thrill the more conservative powerbrokers, and she ended up on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, where her case was used as an example of the country’s declining moral standards.
In 1993 a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis slowed her down a bit, and she concentrated on writing: Ammonite (1993), Slow River (1995), The Blue Place (1998), Stay (2002), Always (2007), and Hild (2013). Griffith is the co-editor of the Bending the Landscape series of original short fiction. Her multimedia memoir, And Now We Are Going to Have a Party: Liner Notes to a Writer’s Early Life, is a limited collector’s edition. Her essays and short fiction have appeared in an assortment of academic texts and a variety of journals, including Nature, New Scientist, Los Angeles Review of Books, and Out. She’s won the Washington State Book Award, the Tiptree, Nebula, the World Fantasy Award, the Premio Italia, and the Lambda Literary Award (six times), among many others.
Now a dual U.S./U.K. citizen, Nicola Griffith is married to writer Kelley Eskridge. They live in Seattle, where Griffith is currently lost in the seventh century, emerging occasionally to drink just the right amount of beer and take enormous delight in everything.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Slow River 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm not an avid Sci-Fi reader, but I absolutely loved this book. Griffith's story is character driven and is not overwhelmed by the sci-fi. The story's focus is on Lore's internal struggle to sort out her identity, and it is artfully wrapped in Sci-fi, but if you want to read about androids, computers that become self-aware, and hard core sci-fi, this is not a book for you. If you want compelling characters, click the Add to Cart button and buy this book.
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PhoenixFalls More than 1 year ago
This is a deeply impressive novel. It is exquisitely crafted: the pace is measured, but sure; the metaphors are used delicately; and the control over perspective (shifting between first person, tight third person, and loose present-tense third person for the three different timelines) is both absolute and absolutely necessary to the emotional arc being told. It is a novel to mull over, savor. It is also an incredibly intense experience, or at least it was for me. I read it slowly partly so that I could admire Griffith's work, but mostly because reading it for more than half an hour at a time left me introspective and melancholy. There is a great deal of pain in the novel, and the carefully distanced prose makes it all the easier for the reader to fill in the blanks. For all the science fiction trappings (and they are many, from the cyberpunk-ish (but mostly irrelevant) identity hacking to the bioremediation science that furnishes much of the plot and much of the imagery) this story is about trauma, and surviving trauma, and then surviving your survival tactics. It's about ethics, and class, and identity, and monsters that come in human shape. It's vaguely dystopian without being political, and it's about corporate espionage while refusing to forget that corporations are anything but faceless. I can't say I loved the book; it was far too emotionally hard for that. It left me unsettled and totally drained, and I don't know that I would ever read it again. But I will certainly be picking up everything else Griffith ever writes.
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