Tobias S. Buckell is a powerful new voice in science fiction, filled with the lyrical accents of Jamaica and highlighted with shades of Aztec culture. In his second book, Ragamuffin, Buckell picks up a story he began in Crystal Rain. Humans are at the bottom of the pecking order, enslaved by the Satrapy which maintains strict limits on technology to keep humans under control. Into this comes the Raga, a group of humans struggling to patch together a rebellion effort whose actions will not annihilate the remainder of humanity. The story occurs on two fronts, one behind enemy lines and one back at the “base”.
This is not a delicate story. It is rough and hard, painted in realistic shades of pain and struggle. Humans have changed for the worse, adapting to incredibly adverse conditions. They face the alien creatures of the Satrapy and other alien races who are working together to ensure the survival of their own species. I enjoyed the sensation of the aliens being truly alien. They aren’t funny looking creatures who speak and think like humans. Somehow, Buckell has created characters who obviously think and believe in a manner not at all like us.
Not having read Buckell’s previous work, Crystal Rain, I was worried I would be lost in the story. Aside from the development of the Raga, humanity’s Rebel Force, the story stands on its own. Some might be tempted to draw parallels between Buckell’s work and Star Wars, yet his voice is too individual. He takes the basic concept of a space opera and makes it his own.
I do wish he had blended the two story lines together a bit. They more collide with each other in a grand finale battle. I felt he dropped off a few characters in his wrap-up that he had invested many words to create. Yet, in the end, he leaves open a few possibilities for continuing the tale. I truly believe he can do it. Not only will I look up Crystal Rain, but I will eagerly await his next work.