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Crystal Rain, by Tobias Buckell Book Review | SFReader.com
Crystal Rain, by Tobias Buckell Genre: Science Fiction Publisher: Tor Published: 2007 Review Posted: 2/3/2009 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 4 out of 10
Crystal Rain, by Tobias Buckell
Book Review by Ann Downing
Have you read this book?
The world of Nanagada is very much like a Caribbean society. Its people practice Voudun, and many of them spend a lot of time in boats. Yet it is clear that only a few generations ago they spent time in ships of a very different sort. They still have airships, and there is talk of lost science that some in the community wish to recover and others want banned for fear of what it can do.
South of the charmingly named Wicked High Mountains are the lands of the Azteca, a degenerate people who worship strange beings called Teotl. These self-styled gods demand regular blood sacrifices, and all-in-all the Azteca would prefer to sacrifice those dark-skinned northerners rather than their own people. The war gods proclaimed the Azteca to be the fiercest human warriors in all of time. The gods had chosen to bring the Azteca into this world to capture prisoners for sacrifice. Thus their crops remained fertile.
As the book opens, the Azteca are in the process of launching a major invasion. Defense of Nanagada falls to a rather informal government in Capitol City, led by its young Prime Minister, Dihana, who has the job mainly because her father did, and a rag-tag volunteer army of bushmen and hunters led by General Haiden. It all seems pretty hopeless. Haiden, however, knows that more powerful weapons are available. There are machines from the time of the oldfathers. There are even people who are said to have machines in their blood, machines that have allowed them to live for hundreds of years, and which might give them superhuman strength and skill. Unfortunately most of these people are cowards who are more interested in longevity than fighting, and would rather trade their secrets to the Azteca than resist. Haiden and Dihana's only hope is John deBrun, a man who claims to have lost his memory, but who has not grown noticeably older in all the time they have known him. Unfortunately deBrun's village was one of the first to be overrun by the Azteca.
Of course they have other problems too. The Azteca are not all of one mind. Those who wish to defy their Teotl overlords generally flee across the mountains and are granted asylum. They have their own quarter of Capitol City in which to live, and call them selves Tolteca. Some of them, however, are bound to be spies.
And then there is Oaxyctl, a man born under the unlucky sign of the Ocelotl, a man who has been a double agent for so long he can no longer remember which side he is supposed to be working for, except when a Teotl takes a personal interest in his work.
All of this results in a fast-paced pulp-style adventure during which we will find out much more about the history of Nanagada, about the alien Teotl, and about the mythical worm's hole in the sky through which both sides in the ancient conflict are said to have come to the world. There is, of course, a fair amount of revelation left for subsequent volumes, but Crystal Rain is complete enough in itself to provide a very satisfying first novel with a different and refreshing setting.
Setting aside, what I liked best about this book were the characters. DeBrun himself actually has a good reason for his amnesia, and it affects his development. Buckell has done a good job with deBrun's teenage son, Jerome, for whom the war and discovering his father is some sort of old time hero come as a terrible shock. Minister Dihana, trying to do a good job but terrified that the men around her will take any excuse to depose her, is another bright spot. And Oaxyctl is wonderful. I do hope we'll see him again soon.
I would rate this book a 6 out 10, mainly for its world building.
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