Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Feb 21, 2006

Crystal Rain

I've been taking the risk of buying first books by new authors lately, hoping I'll stumble across something interesting. It's happened before, when I picked up novels by Celia Dart-Thornton and J.K. Rowling.

Unfortunately, a lot of them also tend to be like Crystal Rain by Tobias S. Buckell.

While the story is at least interesting enough to finish once you've started, it's also full of annoying flaws and rookie-author mistakes that make long sections of it a chore to read.

The general plot consists of a war between two cultures on a colony planet; the Azteca and the Nanagandans, who are essentially Carribean islanders. The reason why the author selected these particular cultures, which are essentially picked up whole and transplanted into foreign soil, never becomes clear. It was my impression that they were selected strictly to be exotic. I'm sorry to say that simply because something is exotic, that does not render it interesting. In fact, the broken English of the Carribean island culture was tiresome to sort through.

As for a theme--an abstract idea tying the novel together--there doesn't appear to be one. It's possible that there is a theme, however I was unable to identify it and I really harbor no desire to wade through the book a second time in an effort to ferret it out.

I must say, also, that this book contains what is possibly the worst similie I've ever seen in what was intended to be a serious work, and on the first page of the first chapter. You can't tell me that was an editing mistake.

Each man dressed in gray: heavy canvas trousers, long-sleeved shirts, and floppy wide-brimmed hats. All over this dull uniform sticks and leaves jutted out, glued on in random patterns.
Out of the jungle and on the rock they stood out like shaggy gray-and-green creatures.

Were I to offer some advice to Mr. Buckell regarding his future work, I would have to say the following:

"All right, you understand approximately how to put together a series of events, and you understand the forms of science fiction. However, you have a great deal to learn about writing, namely that it is not a matter of an exotic subject and a bunch of events."

It's much easier to critique than to write, but I expect it's a great deal more difficult to write again after a debut novel like Crystal Rain. We'll see what he writes next.

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