Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tobias Buckell-- Ragamuffin-- Review

The Chupacabra

Tobias Buckell-- Ragamuffin is a science fiction novel. It is his second novel. Unfortunately, I couldn't get the first book in the setting, Crystal Rain from the library. I had reserved it at the library, but it never came.

In a way, this novel is quite hard to review because of its non-traditional structure. It is a novel in three parts. The first part is the opening sectin of the novel, Nashara, the main heroine of the novel is on a human reservation, she assassinates an alien Gahe breeder for the Human League so she can earn passage off world. The opening is a bit confusing because it immediately jumps into action sequences without explanation.

The second part of the novel is set on Angade, a human world which has been cut off from the wormhole network which links the different worlds in the story. The world is very interesting, it contains two cultures, a kind of Caribbean island culture led by the original settlers, and a proto-Aztec culture controlled by the alien Teotl. The action starts in the second part when the alien Teotl reopen the wormhole leading to Angade. The Teotl are the last remnants of their species fleeing genocide by the Satrapy, the masters of the wormholes. The Teotl have a message, the Satrapy wants to wipe out the human race.

The third part brings together the first two parts in a climactic battle between the human agents of the Satrapy, the Hongguo who are charged with suppressing human technology and the Ragamuffins, a group of human pirates of caribbean island descent. The setting is around the world of Angade.

This is a difficult complex books in many ways. There is use of dialect, and presentation of cultures not normally seen in most science fiction settings. The different factions, the Human League, the Ragamuffins, the Angade, the Hongguo represent different human cultures. The Hongguo appear to be Asian, the Angade a mix of Aztec and Caribbean, and the Human League might be Russian. Add to the mix the alien Teotl and the alien Satrapy and you have a very complex world.

The best part of this book is the world and culture building. The setting is quite unique. Humans are not on top. They live at the edges of the Satrapy on reservations, on backwards worlds, as second class citizens on space stations. Earth has been cut off from the wormhole network so they develop their own civilization. Technology is suppressed by the Hongguo so there is not a lot of super technology.

The alien Teotl are convincingly done. They are well described as aliens. The Satraps are in the background acting as puppet masters, so their presence is felt as a kind of hidden force.

There is a lot of action in the novel. This could have been done better. Some of the fights are quite confusing. I thought the fight sequences should have been edited better. Sometimes what is happening is lost in the action.

I will read the first novel, Crystal Rain because I like the setting. I don't know of any other authors with a Caribbean viewpoint in science fiction. It really is a unique book. He also is unique in writing science fiction with multiple human racial backgrounds in his stories. Most people do not do this. They tend to make the aliens the other races.

I found the novel on the web while reading an interview of Tobias Buckell. Tobias Buckell has his own blog. . There is a lot of material on what it is like to write a novel and how you sell your first novel.


heather (errantdreams) said...

I loved this book and didn't have the problems with the action sequences that you did. I would recommend to potential readers that they try to read Crystal Rain first if at all possible, since the characters and locations from that book come into play in Ragamuffin, and it helps to have the background on them.

Book Calendar said...

Baen's Universe picked up Tobias Buckell's story Manumission. Baen is the premiere publisher of military science fiction. Hopefully, they will help improve his action sequences. They often pick up new authors and team them up with more experienced authors. I guess I am a bit jaded and used to authors like David Drake and Elizabeth Moon's action sequences who both served in the military.