Roxane's Reviews > Crystal Rain

Crystal Rain by Tobias S. Buckell
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May 11, 08

bookshelves: science-fiction, racial-issues
Read in May, 2008

Buckell himself has described the book as: "A far-future Caribbean steampunk adventure . . . with Aztecs." And that sums it up pretty nicely.

Nanagada is a peaceful country/continent inhabited mainly by fishermen and farmers. John DeBrun washed up the tropical shores of the continent twenty-seven years ago and with no memory of his past life. Since then, he's settled with his wife Shanta and their thirteen year old son, Jerome. But a threat from across the Wicked Highs, the Azteca ruled by bloodthirsty gods/aliens, might put an end to all of this. John DeBrun's past is closely linked to Nanagada's past and to the tales of the old-fathers who initially came to the planet through a worm hole. And so, along with John, the reader gradually discovers what's become of the original settlers, their link to Earth, their technology and the last mythical artifact they might have left behind, the Ma Wi Jung, which just might save Nanagada from the Azteca invasion.

I loved this book. It was original, refreshing, fast paced with a strong plot. I simply could not put it down.

Of course, reading a science fiction book in which they talk about plantain, tamarind and carnival brought me years back when I was still in Sint Marteen. So obviously this book touched me on a very personal level. But I strongly believe that even if you have no ties with the Caribbean, the story will grab your attention and hold it until the very last page.

What I was initially afraid of was a machiavelic portrayal of the Azteca as just being pure evil and that we would never get to discover their motivations and the reasons behind their way of life. But not only is one of the main characters some sort of double agent spying for the Azteca in Nanagada, but Buckell also describes a community of Azteca who have immigrated to Capitol City where they lead more or less peaceful lives.

This novel is perfect illustration of diversity. Much like in the Caribbean, the inhabitants of Nanagada have different skin colors, any shade from white to black. But more than just physical appearance, Buckell's done a wonderful work on language, including accents, dialects and also, mentioning the fact that one person may have different accents and adopt one or the other according to the situation or the person they are addressing. This is something which often happens in the Caribbean and it was nice to see it highlighted here. I suppose it is the case of most places in which identities are blurred or multifaceted.

Buckell's ability to portray different shades of gray on all levels (skin color, language, character, etc.) is definitely what I consider the true strength of the novel.

My only complaint would be the lack of female character development. There is Dihana, Nanagada's Prime Minister. But the reader is given the impression that throughout the book she is overwhelmed by the situation and in a constant search for support (who wouldn't be if your country was invaded by blood thirsty killing machines?). There wasn't much that she could really do except buy some time, hoping for others to succeed.

At any rates, highly recommended.
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