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Crystal Rain

(Xenowealth #1)

Long ago, so the stories say, the old-fathers came to Nanagada through a worm’s hole in the sky. Looking for a new world to call their own, they brought with them a rich mélange of cultures, religions, and dialects from a far-off planet called Earth. Mighty were the old-fathers, with the power to shape the world to their liking—but that was many generations ago, and what w Long ago, so the stories say, the old-fathers came to Nanagada through a worm’s hole in the sky. Looking for a new world to call their own, they brought with them a rich mélange of cultures, religions, and dialects from a far-off planet called Earth. Mighty were the old-fathers, with the power to shape the world to their liking—but that was many generations ago, and what was once known has long been lost. Steamboats and gas-filled blimps now traverse the planet, where people once looked up to see great silver cities in the sky.

Like his world, John deBrun has forgotten more than he remembers. Twenty-seven years ago, he washed up onto the shore of Nanagada with no memory of his past. Although he has made a new life for himself among the peaceful islanders, his soul remains haunted by unanswered questions about his own identity.

These mysteries take on new urgency when the fearsome Azteca storm over the Wicked High Mountains in search of fresh blood and hearts to feed their cruel, inhuman gods. Nanagada’s only hope lies in a mythical artifact, the Ma Wi Jung, said to be hidden somewhere in the frozen north. And only John deBrun knows the device’s secrets, even if he can’t remember why or how!

Crystal Rain is the much-anticipated debut novel by one of science fiction’s newest and most promising talents. . more

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I’ve been hearing about Tobias S. Buckell’s Xenowealth series for years and finally got around to it last month. My schedule made reading time difficult to find, so it probably suffered somewhat from that, but overall, I really enjoyed Crystal Rain, book 1 in the Xenowealth series.

John DeBrun has no memory of his past, but there are a few odd things he’s realized about himself, such as the fact that he doesn’t seem to age or get sick (unbreakable!). We find him established with a wife and son an I’ve been hearing about Tobias S. Buckell’s Xenowealth series for years and finally got around to it last month. My schedule made reading time difficult to find, so it probably suffered somewhat from that, but overall, I really enjoyed Crystal Rain, book 1 in the Xenowealth series.

John DeBrun has no memory of his past, but there are a few odd things he’s realized about himself, such as the fact that he doesn’t seem to age or get sick (unbreakable!). We find him established with a wife and son and living in a Caribbean-esque world that leans toward the steampunk.

In this Caribbean-style world, just about everyone talks in dialect. As far as a unique world, I haven’t come across this yet and I thought it was interesting . at first. Then, it got frustrating and difficult to read after a while. It really threw me off and I never got used to it even by the end. Kudos to putting it in there and diversifying the genre, nonetheless.

The Caribbeans are attacked by the neighboring culture who live across the Wicket High mountain range and who are intent on domination. Again, the actual reasons behind the attack (and the interesting surprises) are much more than one country ruling another and has more to do with who is pulling the strings as we learn as the story progresses.

I don’t want to spoil too much, but the payoff in the end is really great after the mysteries finally start to unfold. I blazed through the last hundred pages and it helped I actually found that mysterious reading time I was looking for.

Again, I fear spoiling too much, but this is a brilliant mix of fantasy and science fiction that started off slowly, but really built to a great ending. I did have some problems, but overall I highly enjoyed Crystal Rain and I’m looking forward to the sequels. The reveals were worth the minor difficulties and I think going into the next book, those hiccups will be overcome.

3.5 out of 5 Stars (recommended) . more

The one about a land war on an isolated and technologically
retrograded colony world, with shadowy aliens working behind the
scenes.

. . . Yeah, no. This book is a study in how social justice
awareness isn’t transitive. Buckell’s name got tossed around a lot a
couple years ago in race fail because he’s an author of color who, my
goodness, writes nonfaily science fiction about people of color. What
no one told me was that he simultaneously fails at disability. He
fails at disability like a boss, you guys The one about a land war on an isolated and technologically
retrograded colony world, with shadowy aliens working behind the
scenes.

. . . Yeah, no. This book is a study in how social justice
awareness isn’t transitive. Buckell’s name got tossed around a lot a
couple years ago in race fail because he’s an author of color who, my
goodness, writes nonfaily science fiction about people of color. What
no one told me was that he simultaneously fails at disability. He
fails at disability like a boss, you guys.

[I just wrote and deleted over 1000 words of spitting rant about how
many of the exact same people who were bringing out the racism
pitchforks a couple years ago suddenly in the disability context of
Vividconfail wanted to have “a compromise dialogue.” Let’s just leave that
as the soundbyte and move on under the assumption that my anger with
and alienation from my community hasn’t lessened a single iota in
seven months. Kay? Kay.]

Anyway. The point is, as you know, Bob, that awareness of one
axis of oppression has the potential to give a person some awareness
of others, but there’s no auto fill. It’s not like dragging the
function across multiple rows in Excel.

See Tobias Buckell, whose main character is missing an arm and much of
his memory. The presentation of his physical disability is clumsy and
shallow; it’s basically just repeated references to a half dozen
things he does one-handed. There’s no grasp whatsoever on what it’s
like to experience that sort of embodiment, or the psychological
consequences of losing a body part and some function in the traumatic
way he did.

Oh, and then he gets the arm back when he gets his memory back.
Because now he’s a whole person again, get it?

If I had a quarter for every – okay. One more time.

Disability is not your metaphor. Using a piece of someone’s identity like that is dismissive and demeaning. And disability is particularly not your metaphor for incompleteness, unwholeness, lessness, damage, etc. That is the little kernel of evilness at the very center of ablest thought, right there. This is where it all comes from. Because using disability as an outward-facing metaphor for inward-facing unwholeness depends on the ablest assumption that the disabled body and the disabled person are less, are incomplete, are unwhole. Ask someone who’s been disabled for a while how it feels to be only part of a person, see how well they take it.

And if anyone really needs a sharper point on this one, the most obvious analogy I can think of is that writing disability this way is very much like the way a character’s shadiness/evilness/thuggishness is visually coded in movies through darker skin.

. . . Also the book was clumsily written and it just didn’t interest me much.
. more

This book was so much fun to read. Imagine another planet inhabited by Caribbean people and Aztecs. Imagine “gods” that require blood sacrifices. Imagine a world settled by humans who get cut off from the rest of humanity and have lost most of their technology and whose origins are the stuff of myth and legend. This is the setting of “Crystal Rain” by Tobias Buckell.

When you read as much genre fiction as I do, you start recognizing the formulas and get pretty good at determining where the story This book was so much fun to read. Imagine another planet inhabited by Caribbean people and Aztecs. Imagine “gods” that require blood sacrifices. Imagine a world settled by humans who get cut off from the rest of humanity and have lost most of their technology and whose origins are the stuff of myth and legend. This is the setting of “Crystal Rain” by Tobias Buckell.

When you read as much genre fiction as I do, you start recognizing the formulas and get pretty good at determining where the story is going. In science fiction and fantasy, you get quite used to having everything explained to you in lengthy exposition. With “Crystal Rain”, there were surprises at every turn. The planet’s history was revealed slowly, not all at once. Whatever the characters took for granted, I took for granted. It’s obvious that Buckell had a completely envisioned world and society. But, instead of hitting the reader over the head, he hands out details in bits and pieces. His characters are fully realized and come alive on the page.

I highly recommend “Crystal Rain” for any reader of science fiction (or fantasy) that wants something fresh and exciting, yet accessible. The one thing Crystal Rain is not is weird for weirdness sake. The characters are people we can recognize and their world is not too terribly different from our own, although it is wilder. This book won’t change your life or make you a better person, but it will entertain you without making you feel like you’ve read it before.

By the way, although there is some violence (and human sacrifice), I put this in my “Sharing with my middle-school son” shelf because it was a great adventure, not too weird and it had no graphic sex in it like so many science fiction novels do. The violence was a necessary part of the story and it was handled seriously, not as fun-and-games. . more

I just ordered the beautiful hardcover with the same cover-art you see here above. And I can’t wait to start reading it, since I absolutely loved the short-story; Manumission by the same author set in the same universe as the Xenowealth series. It’ll arrive in a month or so.

(Yes. this is a classic case of “I judged a book by its cover”).

Crystal Rain has a few minor flaws, but it’s a fun novel with an interesting setting that can best be described as Caribbean steam-punk. The novel takes place on a distant, former colony world that was undergoing terraforming. About 300 years prior to the events in the novel, an interstellar war spilled over into the solar system where the world is located. In desperation, one side in the conflict set off a massive EMP burst that fried every computer and circuit board in the system. All ships an Crystal Rain has a few minor flaws, but it’s a fun novel with an interesting setting that can best be described as Caribbean steam-punk. The novel takes place on a distant, former colony world that was undergoing terraforming. About 300 years prior to the events in the novel, an interstellar war spilled over into the solar system where the world is located. In desperation, one side in the conflict set off a massive EMP burst that fried every computer and circuit board in the system. All ships and advanced tech were turned into junk and the only survivors (human and representatives of two different alien races)were those that were on the surface when the burst was set off. Now, 300 years later, the descendents of those survivors are living a low tech, quasi steam-punk existence. The one land mass on the planet is conveniently separated into two different cultures by the impassable Wicked High Mountain Range that splits the continent in half. On one side, in the country of Nanagada, are people of color, descendents of Caribbean colonists and refugees; on the other side are the Aztecas, people who have a culture based on the ancient Aztec civilization of Central America. Events are set into motion when an Azteca army finds a way through the Wicked High Mountains and invades Nanagada.

This back-story to the novel is a little convoluted and clunky and, in some spots, the plot demands some suspension of disbelief. There’s also a few things that don’t make sense or are poorly thought out by the author:
• The Aztecas are the biggest weakness in the novel. The author doesn’t explain how or why their culture ever came into existence. The Aztecas have a largely stone-age culture and practice human sacrifice to appease their Gods (the alien Teotl). The author briefly explains them as “religious fanatics”, but that doesn’t really explain how humans in an advanced star-faring culture would start wearing robes and feathers (and cut their sacrificial victim’s hearts out) or mimic an extinct culture and religion . It appears that Buckell, in trying to come up with his plot, had the thought: “Rastafarians versus Aztecs” pop into his head and just went with it.
• None of the flora and fauna on this alien world are truly “alien”. The jungle is full of terrestrial creatures like monkeys and parrots, but nothing that is “otherworldly”.
• Since they live on the same land mass, the total separation of the two cultures is a little too contrived. The Wicked High Mountain range spans the entire center of the continent from coast to coast and is supposedly impassable except for one heavily guarded spot. Landing by boat is out since the coastline is either full of dangerous reefs that make navigation difficult or it’s far too rocky and mountainous to land on. Both sides have dirigibles, yet it seems that building a fleet of dirigibles to invade by air didn’t dawn on the Aztecas.
• I don’t fully buy the idea that things would still be so low tech 300 years later. Consider the tech level of our world 300 years ago (in 1717) and how far we’ve advanced in those years. Even if all tech was trashed, the survivors would still have the knowledge behind it and their descendants could always reverse engineer things based on whatever artifacts have survived. More than anything else, it just seems like Buckell wanted to write a steam-punk novel and this was the only way he could think of making it semi-plausible.

This is a book where it’s best not to dwell upon things too much and just go with it. The story moves fast and the Caribbean influenced culture of Nanagada is a refreshing change of pace. Interestingly, the vast majority of the characters in the novel are people of color, but you wouldn’t get that idea by the lily white people depicted on the book’s cover. The man with the hook on the cover is one of the main characters and, in the book, he’s black. I’m a little curious if that was a marketing decision or just an oversight. . more

Crystal Rain book. Read 164 reviews from the world’s largest community for readers. Long ago, so the stories say, the old-fathers came to Nanagada throug…