Lightreads's Reviews > Crystal Rain

Crystal Rain by Tobias S. Buckell
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's review
Mar 16, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: science-fiction, disability, fiction
Read in March, 2011

The one about a land war on an isolated and technologically
retrograded colony world, with shadowy aliens working behind the

. . . Yeah, no. This book is a study in how social justice
awareness isn’t transitive. Buckell’s name got tossed around a lot a
couple years ago in race fail because he’s an author of color who, my
goodness, writes nonfaily science fiction about people of color. What
no one told me was that he simultaneously fails at disability. He
fails at disability like a boss, you guys.

[I just wrote and deleted over 1000 words of spitting rant about how
many of the exact same people who were bringing out the racism
pitchforks a couple years ago suddenly in the disability context of
Vividconfail wanted to have “a compromise dialogue.” Let’s just leave that
as the soundbyte and move on under the assumption that my anger with
and alienation from my community hasn’t lessened a single iota in
seven months. Kay? Kay.]

Anyway. The point is, as you know, Bob, that awareness of one
axis of oppression has the potential to give a person some awareness
of others, but there’s no auto fill. It’s not like dragging the
function across multiple rows in Excel.

See Tobias Buckell, whose main character is missing an arm and much of
his memory. The presentation of his physical disability is clumsy and
shallow; it’s basically just repeated references to a half dozen
things he does one-handed. There’s no grasp whatsoever on what it’s
like to experience that sort of embodiment, or the psychological
consequences of losing a body part and some function in the traumatic
way he did.

Oh, and then he gets the arm back when he gets his memory back.
Because now he’s a whole person again, get it?

If I had a quarter for every – okay. One more time.

Disability is not your metaphor. Using a piece of someone’s identity like that is dismissive and demeaning. And disability is particularly not your metaphor for incompleteness, unwholeness, lessness, damage, etc. That is the little kernel of evilness at the very center of ablest thought, right there. This is where it all comes from. Because using disability as an outward-facing metaphor for inward-facing unwholeness depends on the ablest assumption that the disabled body and the disabled person are less, are incomplete, are unwhole. Ask someone who’s been disabled for a while how it feels to be only part of a person, see how well they take it.

And if anyone really needs a sharper point on this one, the most obvious analogy I can think of is that writing disability this way is very much like the way a character’s shadiness/evilness/thuggishness is visually coded in movies through darker skin.

. . . Also the book was clumsily written and it just didn’t interest me much.
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04/26/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

I really want to read the spitting rant.

Also, I love your reviews.

Lightreads Oh, I have no doubt it'll come pouring out one of these days.

And thank you! It's really, incredibly mutual.

message 3: by Moira (new)

Moira Russell I also want the spitting rant!

(and love your reviews, too.)

Oh, and then he gets the arm back when he gets his memory back.
Because now he’s a whole person again, get it?


Someone needs to be bitchslapped senseless with a copy of Illness as Metaphor, apparently.

rivka Moira wrote: "I also want the spitting rant!"

Me three!

message 5: by Devin (new) - added it

Devin Lind I'll skip this one, then. I'm subjected to enough ableism as it is.

message 6: by KJ (new)

KJ Thanks, that's exactly the sort of thing I want to know before diving into a book.

Michael Yankovich Not actually an author of color

message 8: by Ryan (new)

Ryan Gardiner You're criticism of a novel comes entirely from "muh oppression"? Really?

message 9: by Quinotauri (new) - added it

Quinotauri Oh wow, I hope the book is half as entertaining as this. 9/11, would read again.

message 10: by Angel (new) - added it

Angel #stopwhitesfromcomparingracismtoanyandallformsofoppression2016

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