Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I know you are saying to yourselves -

“But, Mfitz’s SF reviews go up on the fourth THURSDAY, of every month, why is this one showing up on Wednesday?”

I will be traveling and may or may not have Internet access over Thanksgiving weekend so Kimber An said I could post my November review a day early.

Now, before people start to think I’m the some sort of weird stalker fan of Tobias Buckell, Kimber An asked if I would review Ragamuffin so that all three Caribbean space opera books would have reviews on this site. Buckell is a bang-up writer, and a great guy so I had no problem at all with posting a review of his second book. Since I have been up to my eyeballs in home remodeling, trying to make sure we would have floors in our house before the holiday season arrived, I’m pulling up this review originally posted on my personal blog last year when Ragamuffin first came out. Buckell had a serious health scare last week, so if you like his work check out his blog and send him some get well wishes.

Enjoy this review and have a great Thanksgiving!

Ragamuffin is a rollicking big Space Opera. There is a great sky-hook scene early on in the book with the most haunting mental image of a sky-hook I ever come across. The sky-hook is throwaway as far as the plot goes. The character could have used a other way to get off the planet, but I think Buckell chose a sky-hook just for the pure coolness factor. The whole book is like that, with little bits and pieces of cool ideas crammed in all the nooks and crannies and a non-stop roller-coaster plot. Some reviewers have complained the book is cluttered, but I didn't think so. It was like eating rocky road ice cream, there was something yummy in each bite and no two were the same.

Things like wormholes, aliens, sky-hooks, and giant L5 habitats, exist in this universe and are no more exciting, or unusual, to the characters than cars, or condos, are to us. They are part of the landscape not important parts of he plot. This use of SF standbys without stopping to fill in nuts-and-bolt technobabble is part of what makes the book so fun. The other part is the cast of quirky multiethnic characters many of who, even the familiar characters from Crystal Rain, aren't what they seem at first glance. Ragamuffin is not so much a sequel to Crystal Rain as another story set in the same universe. Some characters from Crystal Rain do show up in the book, but the main action happens elsewhere, outside Nanagada

Another interesting thing in the book is humanity's place in this universe. Humans aren't the bright shining conquering heroes, nor are they feisty rebels fighting evil alien overlords, the standard default positions in most SF. In this book humans are marginal, most of what they do doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things, except to other humans. They are, for the most part, pawns, bottom feeders, or shady dealers, living on the fringes of civilization because they don't have the political, or technical, clout to take control. This isn't all that cheerful a situation, but it's not completely bleak either. By the end of the book there is some indication that the status quo in the universe is about to get shaken up, and that humans are going to play a part in that, even if they aren't leading the overthrow.


Kimber An said...

Wonderful, Mary!

Tobias Buckell is an amazing author and his blog is not to be missed.

Thanks for another great one!

Robyn said...

I'm going to have to check these out. They sound too cool!

Mfitz said...

Toby is back in the hospital with a pulmonary embolism. He's still blogging though

He's doing better but could probably still do with some prayers and good wishes.