I enjoyed Slow River. However, I also enjoy The Hills and America's Next Top Model, so this means very little. I enjoyed it, but I didn't think it was particularly good. The major issue I had with it was the apparent lack of a character arc for Lore. As she is the protagonist, I assume we are supposed to identify and sympathize with her; at least, I found no indication to the contrary. I did not particularly like her, however, and there were some major flaws in her character that I thought needed more of a treatment than the book gave.
In the beginning of the story (chronologically), Lore is:
a) mind-blowingly rich, and has all the easy naÃ¯ve carelessness of the aristocracy
b) mildly obsessed with sex
c) prideful and striving to prove herself to those around her (her family, the company)
d) unthinkingly supportive of the unfair and dangerous monopoly her family hold on the water purification system.
At the end of the novel, she is still all of these things. She has apparently made the most progress in the "mildly obsessed with sex" category â€“ she has at least discovered love, to augment lust. She has plenty of positive characteristics as well, obviously, but the above four were issues I expected to be addressed in her development that were not.
Slow River was unexpectedly pro-corporation. The ethical dilemmas posed by the van de Oest monopoly on the genetically engineered water-purification system are obvious â€“ it allows blatantly artificial price inflation and the eradication of all competition. None of the characters, besides the huddled masses in Venezuela, ever question the rightness of this. We already went over this in class, so I will say no more; more interesting to me is the sense of entitlement and subtle arrogance that Lore displays throughout the book. At her job on Hedon Road, she listens to her superiors speak with a condescending, critical air. After nearly everything Hepple says as he gives her a tour the first day, she mentally disparages him with thoughts like, "I had learned at age 12, from my uncle Willem, that in a properly run plant the average BOD should never be higher than two ppm, but I didn't say anything" (30) and "[Hepple was] a little tin god, lording it over his tiny domain. He wouldn't have lasted more than a day on one of my projects" (32). In just these two statements, Lore reminds herself, and the reader, that as an adolescent she already knew better than Hepple, she is connected to the van de Oests, and if she was not in hiding, she would be in control of all her bosses' fates. With unthinking ease that comes with being of the super-elite, she places herself as superior to everyone else in the plant. Even Magyar has to prove to Lore that she is not a complete idiot.
When Lore tells Magyar her true name, it is with a certain self-satisfied pride. When Magyar reacts with anger, and not awe, Lore thinks, "But I'm Frances Lorien van de Oest! Didn't she know what that meant? She couldn't just dismiss me, as if I were anyone else...But she had. Which is what I wanted, wasn't it - to be treated as a real person?
It is the closest Lore comes to self-reflection.
When I finished reading, I found myself wondering if Lore's flat character was faulty writing or some kind of extraordinarily subtle criticism of the sheltered elite on Griffith's part. I think that this is swerving dangerously close to trying to identify author's intent, so I will not attempt to answer that question; rather, I will only comment that Lore is quite an unusual character in a genre that is so often anti-establishment and subversive.