Review of CRYSTAL RAIN by Tobias S. Buckell (see his website)
Tor, May 2007
John deBrun lives a peaceful life with his wife and son. His missing memory is a worry, as his agelessness as those around him get older, but the evil Azteca are safely on the other side of the mountain, the only pass guarded by an army of Mongoose-men. When the Azteca complete their century-in-the-making tunnel through the mountains, though, John's entire civilization comes unraveled as the Azteca blitzkrieg through Nanagada on their way to Capitol City and the Loa who reside their.
John is captured by an Azteca raiding party but rescued by a man who claims to be an ex-Azteca now working for the Mongoose-men. Together they embark on a voyage of exploration in search of a secret weapon of the ancients--something frozen in the far north that's sought both by the Loa and by the evil 'gods' worshiped by the Azteca--the Teotle. As John eventually learns, though, the stakes are even higher than the fate of his planet. Behind the collapsed wormhole, billions of Teotle wait for their chance at conquest and bloody sacrifice.
Meanwhile, John's son, Jerome, is rescued by 'Frenchies,' uber-killer Pepper searches for John for his own reasons, and Dihana, self-appointed mayor of Capitol City, worries about the invading Azteca, the few ageless 'councilmen' who remember the days before the collapse of technology, and the Loa who turned against her when she seized her late father's position.
CRYSTAL RAIN is a first novel by Tobias S. Buckell and shows considerable promise. The post-apocalyptic world created by human settlers intermingled with and manipulated by super-human aliens, is interesting, as is the clash of cultures between Caribbean islander and Aztec-derived. Although he doesn't get much time as the point of view character, to me, Pepper, the killer, seems the most interesting character. In contrast, the amnesiac-hero is a bit of a cliche (see Zelazny's Nine Princes in Amber), Dihanna spends too much time feeling sorry for herself and Jerome's portion of the story simply doesn't go anywhere.
Although CRYSTAL RAIN is flawed, it held my interest. Although a reborn Aztec civilization seems impossible, and it's hard to understand exactly what benefit super-powered aliens would get out of manipulating humans into frequent human sacrifice, I actually didn't find myself questioning these elements in the story until I'd completed the novel and tried to think about it as a whole. Buckell's story-telling is strong enough to keep me in the moment. Overall, Buckell shows a lot of promise.
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