- Tobias Buckell’s second novel, Ragamuffin, a sequel to his well-received debut, Crystal Rain, follows the same form that Buckell established in his first. The novel comes in at a little over 300 pages in the hardcover form, tiny compared with most of books being published these days. However, the story being told is anything but small. Buckell is just not wasting any words.
Unlike the first novel, where the entire story plays out on a single world, in a struggle between two primarily human forces, Ragamuffin greatly expands the scope of both Buckell’s universe, and the issues being presented by the story. The story begins on a far away world in the universe that Crystal Rain’s world, Nanegeda, has been cut off from for over 300 hundred years. There are a few alien races encountered, though more are dwelling behind the scenes of the novel. The focus of this book is the human plight in this Universe, subject to a race called the Satraps either directly or through the influence of other Satrapy controlled species.
Nashara, the new prime character in this novel, is on the run from Satrapy controlled forces and attempting to find a free human holding in the universe. Nashara was from a planet called Chimson, founded by the same people who founded Nanegeda, and she was originally sent on a mission to try to reconnect with that settlement. Both Chimson and Nanegeda have been removed from the system, so Nashara is trying to improvise… with very mixed results.
John de Brun, Pepper, and Jerome, primary characters from Crystal Rain, also play a prominent role in this novel, roughly 7 years after the events in CR.
Overall, I enjoyed this novel, and found it just as rewarding as the first. Again, I maintain that the book could use another 20 to 30 pages to more fully develop characters, political situations, and even a few of the scenes. While the quick development and pacing of the story does lead to a very vibrant story, a little more here and there could do a great deal of help. Still this is a fun and entertaining read, complete with an interesting created universe, and the development of some interesting political and social dynamics to add depth to the narrative.
My primary complaint about the novel is that I felt the very end of the novel fell more than a little short. The story had a great build to climax, then all of the sudden there are a quick succession of many short little chapters that jump from character to character, situation to situation. It isn’t exactly clear what is being addressed. What exactly is the fallout and development after the climax? What is the relationship between what happened and the the final few scenes? The book just seemed to blow apart a bit in the last 20 pages or so.
Ragamuffin by Tobias Buckell is a solid space opera novel, a great sequel to a very strong first novel. Nashara, Pepper, and John de Brun are interesting characters. All in all, I certainly recommend both Crystal Rain and Ragamuffin to any and all readers.