Slow bullets is a novella I would have liked to be longer so that I could spend more time with it. It is also a great reminder of the fact that I really, really like Alastair Reynolds. It's been a long time since I read any of his books, but I have unusually strong memories of some of his characters and places in the Revelation space universe. (Perhaps especially of Volyova!)
I think we should mention his name a lot more often when discussing female characters in hard SF, because he provides them. He brings about these women so matter-of-factly that you barely even take notice, which is of course exactly the way to do it (according to me). When I think about it, I get the distinct idea that here's an author who goes "Well, does this character arc specifically involve testicles? No? Then it can belong to a woman." And this is done without automatically bringing ovaries into focus.
It's so great.
(And at the same time, I believe this is exactly why a great many readers often complain about 'cardboard' characters. I dunno. I'm just ecstatic when I get a female character who gets to have not a single thought about anything pertaining to her reproductive system.)
Scur, the protagonist of Slow Bullets, is no exception. She's a soldier, unfortunately derailed on her way home. There's been a ceasefire. She never does get home, though. In fact, she ends up farther away from everything she knows, everything she had intended to return to, than she could have imagined up until the moment she finds herself in a cryo chamber, just waking up... where?
The opening scenes of this story did not allow me to guess what was ahead. It's difficult for a story to achieve this without doing some absurd tricks, or, well, failing at natural plot progression. Slow bullets does everything exactly right, and I love it. True to his established space noir style, Reynolds paints memorable images, vast and dark and quiet. Humans remain human. Aliens are utterly alien.
Read it if you want to scratch that space opera itch! Or, perhaps, if your interest is piqued by what I've said about the treatment of female characters. If you like this novella, and haven't already read at least the first Revelation space novel and Chasm city, you'll easily add those to your to-read list. (I haven't read the more recent trilogy, but I probably will, sooner or later...!)