- Crystal Rain is the debut novel of Tobias Buckell. The books tells an interesting scifi story, and it does it that all too unusual way... in under 400 pages. All in all, this is a very strong debut and a fun read.
At first, it's difficult to say just where this story might be taking place, or even when. It's a testament to Buckell's skill as a writer that he manages to instantly invoke a sense of place and history. What might have been a nearly contemporary Caribbean setting, turns out to be a far future Caribbean settlement on another world, long cut off from the rest of the universe, and even from any real technology. This sense of place and culture is deepened by Buckell's skilled use of character accent and jargon.
The story follows a few PoVs as they navigate a land that is caught up in a war. There is little excess in the storytelling. The plot moves quickly, and the story builds on itself very efficiently. John deBrun is a fisherman in a small isolated village. When an army of Azteca cross the mountains, his village is subjugated. John himself is being sought out for secrets he supposedly knows, and an Azteca spy is chasing after those secrets. A strange man named Pepper is also looking for John, but his reasons are a whole lot different. War has come. John sets out to save his family, and things very quickly start to happen.
At the heart of the narrative tension is the relative difference between the PoV characters understanding of what is going on. There are traitors. There is deeper history. Not everyone is what they seem to be. The war itself only a small part of a much larger history.
While I feel that the book could have used another 15 or 20 strategically placed pages, room for a bit deeper characterization, or the space for some little further development, I think that Crystal Rain is one of the stronger debut novels that I've read in quite a while. The novel is a quick and satisfying read that I happily recommend to anyone who likes scifi or fantasy.