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Slow River    by Nicola Griffith order for
Slow River
by Nicola Griffith
Order:  USA  Can
Del Rey, 1996 (1995)
Hardcover, Softcover
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Slow River is set in the near future, in a 21st century in which water pollution is a very serious problem and the van de Oest family have built a huge fortune on their bioengineering technology. The story's heroine Lore is a scion of that family, kidnapped just before her eighteenth birthday, abused and held for ransom. She is discovered naked and bleeding on the cobbles at the heart of a city by the outlaw Spanner, who lives on the edge.

The van de Oest's are a very dysfunctional family. Lore is ashamed of what has happened to her and, aware that her family delayed paying her ransom, afraid to return. She stays with Spanner, who involves her in shady and degrading dealings. As she regains her strength and character, and though she loves Spanner, Lore leaves this flawed woman, assumes a false identity and obtains work at the City wastewater treatment plant.

The story moves back and forth in time between Lore's affluent childhood, her time with Spanner and her present involvement at the plant, where slackness and corruption endanger lives, including her own. Investigation of an incident of sabotage gives Lore insights about her own history and she finally grows capable of confronting it. I found this story particularly apt given that deaths caused by water pollution have been in N. American news reports so much lately. The underlying issues are as fascinating as the heroine who has the strength to pull herself out of an abyss of abuse and degradation.

As an old man befriended by Lore explains to her 'Rape, murder, torture, it's all been done before. Loneliness, joy, love - been around for a thousand years ... there may be new ways to read books these days, there's the net instead of radio and these silly PIDAs instead of a good leather wallet, but people don't change. Not really.' Slow River is a remarkably powerful story about people - a tale of abuse and recovery, a mystery, and an environmental alert all at once. It deservedly won both the Nebula Award and the Lambda Literary Award.

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