Slow River now demonstrates that Griffith is the major new voice in the field… In her depiction of a woman struggling for control of her life, Griffith has fashioned a paean to the human spirit, engaging both the mind and heart. It’s fashionable to say such books transcend the genre, as if quality had no place in science fiction. Rather, I think Slow River elevates the genre, joining a select few books that shine as beacons of excellence.” — Seattle Times 

Publisher’s Description

She wakes in an alley to the splash of rain. She is naked, a foot-long gash in her back was still bleeding, and her identity implant is gone. Lore van de Oest was the daughter of one of the world’s most powerful families…and now she is nobody, and she has to hide.

Then out of the rain walks Spanner, predator and thief, who takes her in, cares for her wound, and teaches her how to reinvent herself again and again. No one can find Lore now: not the police, not her family, and not the kidnappers who left her in that alley to die. She has escaped…but the cost of her newfound freedom is crime and deception, and she pays it over and over again, until she has become someone she loathes.

Lore has a choice: She can stay in the shadows, stay with Spanner…and risk losing herself forever. Or she can leave Spanner and find herself again by becoming someone else: stealing the identity implant of a dead woman, taking over her life, and creating a new future.

But to start again, Lore requires Spanner’s talents—Spanner, who needs her and hates her, and who always has a price. And even as Lore agrees to play Spanner’s game one final time, she finds that there is still the price of being a Van Oesterling to be paid. Only by confronting her family, her past, and her own demons can Lore meld together who she had once been, who she has become, and the person she intends to be…


“Noirish, mesmerizing…remarkable.” — San Francisco Review of Books

“With her rich imagination, Griffith has created an intriguing world and a character who not only makes her way through it with boldness and creativity, but takes the time to reflect as she goes. Lore confronts moral dilemmas, faces the pain of her past and eventually finds an identity centered in herself rather than in “that most modern of ectoplasms: electrons and photons that flitted silently across the data nets of the world.” — San Francisco Chronicle

“[W]ith her first novel, Ammonite…Griffith revealed herself to be fluent in presenting realistic science and its implications, capable of cinematic clarity in her prose, insightful with emotions and character… Replicating many of her debut’s themes and strengths, Slow River nonetheless expands into new territory… Although packed with memorable events—including a thrilling brush with a toxic blowup in a bioremediation plant that reads like an updated version of Lester Del Rey’s Nerves (1956)—Slow River is, in tune with its title, a stately, measured voyage down the secret streams inside us all. — Washington Post

“With its persuasive characters trying to form identities in an unstable society, its midnight streets and shabby apartments, and its vast industrial engines, Slow River is a powerful prose poem on issues that are already with us… It’s a worthy, and radically different, successor to its author’s acclaimed debut.” — Gary Wolfe, Locus

“Griffith has done a wonderful job… Slow River is a jewel of a book, beautifully written and mature in how it approaches its concepts. It calls light up from the darkest shadows–a light that shines more brightly for having survived and prospered against the odds stacked up against it. In a world that seems forever going more and more awry, we need reminders such as this, and authors such as Griffith to provide them.” — Charles de Lint, F&SF 

“Nicola Griffith made a brilliant debut two years ago with the planetary exploration novel Ammonite. Her second book is an equally brilliant but very different story of the near future and one woman’s search for an identity. Slow River extrapolates changes in biology, computers and drugs in the day-after-tomorrow fashion of Bruce Sterling. Slow River moves swiftly but is also deceptively deep and thoughtful.” — Denver Post

“Credible internet charity scams, kidnapping, fashionable designer drugs, sex, sadism, advanced digital porn, sabotage, information and identity theft–all solidly human, without the easy dazzle of cyberpunk cliche. There are no disposable characters either. Real life isn’t as cheap as some fiction would have us believe. Slow River is an extremely mature SF novel which pulls off the difficult trick of combining a solidly decent moral stance with compelling readability. I was impressed.” — David Langford, in SFX

“No second-novel slump for English-born Nicola Griffith, whose first novel, Ammonite, won both a Lammy and science fiction’s Tiptree Award… In both theme and imagery, Slow River invites comparison to such death-and-rebirth epics as the Sumerian descent of Inanna or the attempt of Orpheus to bring Eurydice back from Hades… Rarely has this reviewer wished so fervently for a sequel!” — Victoria Brownworth, Lambda Book Report 

“Ambitious, remarkable, strikingly described.” — Brian Aldiss

“An astonishing piece of work.” — Dorothy Allison


  • winner, Nebula award
  • winner, Lambda Literary Award
  • winner, Spectrum Award
  • shortlist, Seiun Award


Writing Slow River
“Layered Cities”