Science fiction and fantasy from around the world have not been easy to come by during my reading challenge. Out of more than 100 books, only a handful of them can be categorised as such. So I was very happy to find a science fiction author for the Grenadan leg of my challenge.
Crystal Rain is the debut novel of Tobias S. Buckell. Although it takes place on a fictional planet far away from Earth, the setting where we find our characters is inspired by the Caribbean island of Grenada, from whence Buckell hails.
The novel falls into the subgenre of science fiction known as steampunk, and it’s evident in the many inventions, contraptions, mechanisms, and machines peppered throughout the story. Starships and airships often form the site of the book’s most action-packed sequences, my favourite being an airship-to-airship battle which involves the story’s protagonist John deBrun. But there are also dives to underwater caves and gruelling treks through the icy wastes of the North.
Crystal Rain’s story revolves around the Aztecan advance and attack on Capitol City and its surrounding towns and villages. DeBrun is the focus of this story, but it is the enigmatic Pepper who is by far the most interesting character. Mysterious, elusive, and virtually indestructible, he intrigues from his very first introduction. And overall it is the characters, including Pepper, whose action mostly take place around and outside Capitol City that are the most exciting.
The action leaps between this city and its outlying reaches which include jungles, mountains, and the ocean. Characters populating the city are less exciting, and the sole female lead in this story is very disappointing. Dihana may be minister, but she’s in that position because her father was before, and little she does makes you think she would have been there otherwise.
Luckily, we do not spend much time in the city, and keep busy traversing oceans and avoiding a volatile crew aboard La Revanche, which John captains in his search for the Ma Wi Jung – an ostensible weapon that will help him and Pepper repel the attacking Aztecans.
All the excitement and action comes to a conclusive and satisfying ending, but there is promise of more in the book’s epilogue. This promise is presumably fulfilled in a sequel titled Ragamuffin. As captivated as I was by this world, I’m very eager to read Buckell’s Arctic Rising, which sounds very much like it falls into the climate fiction category.
Another subgenre of science fiction, it centres on literature that incorporates the impact of climate change into its story. Anthropogenic climate change poses a severe threat to island nations. It is also impacting the world at large, and the more writers who address this urgent theme in their work, the better. But island nations are not often known as much more than exotic holiday destinations, and Buckell’s books may provide entry into becoming familiar with the history and probable futures of Grenada and other Caribbean nations.