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SLOW RIVER by Nicola Griffith

SLOW RIVER

By Nicola Griffith

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-345-39165-9
Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

 When Lore, scion of the rich and powerful Van Oesterling family, is kidnapped, her family refuses to pay the ransom. After a courageous attempt to escape, she's dumped in the rain, naked and bleeding, in a northern English city. Spanner, a tough lady who makes a living from computer fraud and prostitution, offers her shelter. Once recovered, Lore assists Spanner with her intricate swindles and agrees to participate in sex shows for wealthy clients made tolerable by a powerful aphrodisiac drug. Another narrative strand details Lore's early training for the highest echelons of the Van Oesterling empire, founded on patented, genetically engineered bacteria that chew up pollutants. But Lore's father, Oster, attempted to sexually abuse her as a child until her eldest sister, Greta, put an unbreakable lock on her door. Lore's other sister, Stella, wasn't so fortunate, and eventually killed herself. In a third storyline, Lore breaks away from Spanner following the appalled realization that all their money is being spent on the sex drug. She takes legitimate employment at a sewage reclamation plant, where her Van Oesterling expertise helps avert a sabotage attempt by a rival company. Finally, Lore confronts her father, learns that her mother was the abuser, and discovers that Greta, who was running a secret dirty-tricks department within the family business, set up her kidnapping and then pocketed the ransom paid by Oster. Griffith (the Lambda Award-winning paperback Ammonite) handles her explicitly lesbian drama with skill and charm. Despite irritating switches in narrative tense and viewpoint, her grim near-future is persuasive.