After reading, and recently re-reading, Crystal Rain I loved the way that Tobias Buckell bought a unique flavour to science fiction: the Caribbean influences made for an interesting story and very strong characters. It was with great anticipation that I picked up Ragamuffin, even now when I’ve returned to re-read this novel. My main question at the time was whether or not Buckell could bring the uniqueness and story telling skills to space opera, and if he could how would it all fit together. Despite it being some years since my first read of Ragamuffin I found that I still had the same questions, even knowing that I enjoyed it back then. Both time I was very pleased to find not only an entertaining story, but one that once again brings great characters to the table, delivers an interesting history, and has more than enough action to satisfy.
Ragamuffin is split into three sections, initially following Nashara as she escapes a planet and tries to find her way as close to New Anagada as possible. Nashara’s story then goes on to entwine with the other section, life on New Anagada after the events of Crystal Rain and the subsequent re-opening of the wormhole, and also the merging of the two plots for the final act. All of these are well integrated as a whole, although I am glad that I’ve read Crystal Rain to fully appreciate the situation on New Anagada, and to enjoy the returning characters.
Nashara is a very unique character, a clone of one of the old founders of Chimson and designed with forbidden technology to do very serious damage to her enemies – we find out very early on that her fellow clones died unleashing hell on their captors so Nashara could escape. She is a strong female lead with serious attitude – a character that is easy and fun to read with an underlying history that slowly comes to the surface. We’ve also got another interesting character in Estudo, a Hongguo who has some rather diverse views that don’t entirely match up with the rest of the Hongguo. He’s interesting and multi-layered and gives a viewpoint that, as a reader, is ideal. We’ve also got our old friends from Crystal Rain in the shape of John deBrun and, of course, Pepper, one of my favourite charcaters in all of science fiction.
Despite Buckell doing a good job here to give a summarised back-story without interfering with the plot of Ragamuffin, I think that reading Crystal Rain first to gain a full understanding of the situation coming in would be a good idea, though not entirely required.
As a storyteller, Tobias Buckell is very good at his job. He’s got a neat and focused style that doesn’t get bogged down in the more mundane points of world building, but equally he creates a believable and hugely enjoyable universe. This is one of those things that can set a book apart from others, and Ragamuffin certainly hits the high notes in terms of action and adventure. The only criticism I have about Ragamuffin is how quickly events happen from around the halfway point onwards. It feels slightly rushed and the avenues that we are taken down not explored as fully as I’d hoped. However, this doesn’t have any serious effect on my enjoyment of the book, it’s just a little niggle.
Sly Mongoose, the third novel in the sequence, is one I’m very much looking forward to re-reading, and I sincerely hope that any future novels can keep pace with the precedent that has been set here. Highly recommended.