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Crystal Rain Paperback – January 20, 2015
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“Buckell's debut captures the flavor of Afro-Caribbean culture in the lilting dialog of his characters and in their customs. An original tale with distinctive characters and a fresh approach to worldbuilding, this SF quest belongs in most libraries.” ―Library Journal, starred review
“Crystal Rain conjures a vividly imagined world, spiced with intrigue and adventure that unfolds at a breakneck pace.” ―Booklist
“A cracking adventure yarn from an exciting new writer.” ―Cory Doctorow, author of Homeland
“Even non-sci-fi readers will be bowled over.... Violent, poetic, and compulsively readable.” ―Maclean's (Canada)
About the Author
TOBIAS S. BUCKELL is a New York Times bestselling author whose books and short stories have been translated around the world. His other novels include Ragamuffin, Sly Mongoose, Hurricane Fever, Arctic Rising, and Halo: Evolutions. Buckell hails from the Caribbean, where as a child he lived on boats in Grenada and the British and US Virgin Islands. When he was a teenager, a series of hurricanes destroyed the boat his family was living on and they moved to Ohio, where he still lives today with his wife and daughters.
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I listened to this book as an audiobook and it blew me away. I have been reading science fiction for fifty years. This book brought me back to the science fiction I read in my youth with captivating cultures and strange worlds. The author Tobias Buckell has put together the oddest cultural mash-up imaginable. The colony world seems to have one large habitable continent. The portion north of the "Wicked Highs" is Nanagada. Nanagada is under the control of a culture derived from the islands of the West Indies. This gives a lot of characters a colorful Jamaican accent. Nanagada seems to be a nice place with a lot of diversity and people who enjoy fishing and farming and a reasonable level of technological development.
South of the Wicked Highs, however, is Azteca, where the ancient culture of the Aztecs, with its Flower Wars and human sacrifice, has been reinstituted by "gods" known as the Teotl. The Teotl are aliens who want to conquer Nanagada and kill their ancient enemy in Nanagada, known as the Loa.
The story rips forward from the beginning of the Azteca invasion of Nanagada. We are introduced to John de Brun and his family on the eve of the invasion. The family is separated from each other by the invasion. There are near escapes abounding as John makes his way to Capitol City. In Capitol City, we meet Edward Haidan, who is the chief of the "Mongoose Men," Nanagada's bush-based military. (The city militia are called Ragamuffins." No explanation is provided in this book for those names.) We are also introduced to Dihana, who is the mayor of Capital City. The duty to defend the last vestige of decent civilization falls to these two. Into this mix, we follow the mysterious Pepper, who is simply the most dangerous man in any world.
We gradually come to learn that Nagada is a devolved colony world. There was a war between humans, Teotl and Loa a long time ago. There is technology up for grabs that may determine the outcome of the Azteca invasion, and, maybe, the fate of human civilization beyond Nanagada.
From start to finish, the book moves along with energy and excitement, revealing just enough to keep the reader tantalized by what is left unrevealed.
Buckel has done a good job of thinking out things like wormholes and nanotechnology. This is a refreshing bit of Golden Age writing with Jamaican spice. As a lifetime science fiction reader, I recommend this book.
On a distant planet in a distant future: John DeBrun washed up on a beech in Nanagada 27 years ago with no memory of whom or what he was. Now John makes his living as a fisherman and lives with his wife Shanta and son though he still desires to know who he was and where he came from. Meanwhile the Azteca who until now have been held at bay by an impassible mountain range have now found a way to wage a full scale war on their enemies in Nanagada. Their motivation comes from what they perceive to be gods, the Teotle which are actually aliens. Now John and the Nanagada government must race to unlock the technological secrets of the old fathers which are across an ocean and buried in the snow in order to save the people of Nanagada from the Azteca and their gods the Teotle...
"Crystal Rain" is a decent first effort by Buckell but he does have some holes in his writing game to fill.
The Good: The story overall was interesting and Buckell builds a solid world with an interesting back story that is gradually explained as the story unfolds. The dynamic he created between the Gods/aliens and humans is interesting. The humans come to believe that the Aliens are gods beacuse of their power and because so much time has passes since the two species had initially been introduced.
The Bad: Buckell's writing is vague at times and leaves a little to be desired in this department. There also seems to be a lack of continuity in his writing as characters seem to immediately go to their next action without any lead from one point to another.
Overall: "Crystal Rain" is a decent first effort by Buckell and is worth checking out for any Sci-fi fan.