Author – Tobias Buckell
Pages: 320 pages
Publisher: Tor Books
Release Date: June 12 2007
Buckell manages to fit more into this lean novel than most authors do into novels twice as long. I donâ€™t know how he does it, but other authors (and editors) need to take note; this is how you tell a lean, fast paced and frenetic story without any wasted words. Each and every one of Crystal Rainâ€™s 384 pages burst at the seams with creativity: a vivid world inhabited by real people all wrapped up in a plot that races towards the finish line at full steam ahead.
So began my review of Tobias Buckell’s debut novel, Crystal Rain and I’ll be damned if it doesn’t hold true for the sequel. A novel under his belt and another candle on his birthday cake means Buckell only improved as a writer and that shows clearly in Ragamuffin, which is without a doubt a better novel in every sense than Crystal Rain â€“ which was a damn fine novel in its own right.
Ragamuffin, though shorter than Crystal Rain, sees the scope of Buckell’s storytelling expand immensely. Where the first novel was more of an adventure with Science Fiction elements, Ragamuffin is a full blown Space Opera. Various alien races inhabit the 48 planets, under the rule of the elusive but powerful Satrapy, and Buckell wastes no time in creating a fun, wild west version of a galaxy on the edge.
One might be worried that the sudden expansion in scope would speak ill for the tight plotting that held Crystal Rain together. This certainly isn’t the case. Time and experience have made Buckell a stronger writer and the plotting and characters are terrific, there’s never a dull moment and Nashara, the protagonist of the novel, is the best kind of badass. A likable one.
Though tied to Crystal Rain, Ragamuffin acts as a standalone story, which is something I always appreciate in a novel. Those who haven’t read Crystal Rain, however, might find it a little jarring when, a third of the way into the novel, the story and perspective shift to another cast of characters. The transition is (probably intentionally) abrupt, but once all the plot threads start coming together, the end of the novel flows beautifully.
Buckell’s prose, already decent in Crystal Rain, has improved. It flows a bit better and he utilizes dialogue well as an engine to move the story forward. The Caribbean dialect that made the first novel difficult to read is now found much more sparingly and used to better effect this time around. His description is sparse and doesn’t bog the story down, but I was still able to vividly picture everything going on â€“ especially a cool scene near the middle of the novel involving a mini-gun, rope, and a deficit of gravity – just the way I like it. He does, however, have a bizarre habit of using the same word twice in a sentence.
What more is there to say about Ragamuffin? It’s good fun Science Fiction that doesn’t get too bogged down in the science. The action’s fierce, the pace never lets down, the characters force you to care about them and Buckell does this all in 320 pages. I’m not sure I could ask of anything more from a novel. Hell the novels are worth reading for Pepper (a supreme badass with dreadlocks, a top hat and a tailcoat) alone. If Sly Mongoose is as much an improvement over Ragamuffin as Ragamuffin was over Crystal Rain, we’re sure in for a hell of a treat.