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Slow River, by Nicola Griffin.

June 28, 2016

Slow River, by Nicola Griffin.  Ballantine Books (1996),  352 pages.

4 stars

A raw and gritty lesbian adventure story,  set in the near future, well written and full of perceptively imaged characters and circumstances.

Nicola Griffin is an English lesbian author with talent and skill.  She has written several lesbian and fantasy novels and earned the Lambda and Nebula Award for this one.

Slow River tells the story of Lore van de Oest, a young woman raised in a affluent family who spoiled and groomed her but refused to ransom her when she is kidnapped.  She lands in the care of Spanner, a woman who makes her living outside the law.  Eventually Lore breaks away from Spanner and takes an ordinary job, only to be exposed to new dangers.  Lore tries to keep out of sight of her family and legal authorities as she tries to establish an identity for herself.

Griffin writes with skill and power, creating believable characters and tense situations.  She is able to move constantly between the various periods of Lore’s life without sacrificing the coherence of her complicated plot.  Her story is set in the near future, a future with technology for computers, drugs and waste water retrieval only slightly advanced from today’s.  The advances seem only to magnify the social problems we also see emerging around us.  The book’s conclusion, however, is weak and barely adequate for the dense, action-filled plot.

I enjoyed Slow River, although I would have preferred less violence and explicit lesbian sexuality.  I suspect some of my blog readers would find the book too raw for their taste, but others will appreciate it more than I did.  I think Griffin is worth reading, and recommend this book to readers who are up for the ride she gives them.

My favorite of Griffin’s book is her wonderful fantasy, Ammonite, about a planet where only women live—and reproduce.  It is more accessible to a wider range of readers than Slow River. (See my review.)


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