Crystal Rain

Crystal Rain

by Tobias S. Buckell

Paperback(Mass Market Paperback - Reprint)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780765350909
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 05/29/2007
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 384
Product dimensions: 4.23(w) x 6.62(h) x 1.02(d)

About the Author

TOBIAS S. BUCKELL is a New York Times bestselling author whose books and short stories have been translated around the world. His other novels include Ragamuffin, Sly Mongoose, Hurricane Fever, Arctic Rising, and Halo: Evolutions. Buckell hails from the Caribbean, where as a child he lived on boats in Grenada and the British and US Virgin Islands. When he was a teenager, a series of hurricanes destroyed the boat his family was living on and they moved to Ohio, where he still lives today with his wife and daughters.

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Crystal Rain

PART ONE

THE WICKED HIGHS

CHAPTER ONE

 

 

The Wicked High Mountains loomed around Dennis and his men as they skirted house-sized, reddish slabs of rock jutting from the soil, avoided deep, echoing chasms, and paused at a tiny stream to fill their canteens.

Above the tree line the air cooled enough that Dennis could see his own breath. Yesterday he would have been amused. Today his huffing betrayed how fast he moved over the crumbling ground.

Dennis looked around at his men. Mongoose-men. Nanagada's best bush warriors. They hopped from rock to rock with grunts. Some had long dreadlocks down their backs and full beards. Others had short, cropped hair. They came from all over Nanagada, and despite being smeared with mud and colored chalk to help them blend into the shadows, they had skin ranging from mountainside and Capitol City soft brown to south-coast dark black.

Each man dressed in gray: heavy canvas trousers, longsleeved 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.

Still, this was the quickest way to Mafolie Pass.

The second moon rose. A dim double-lit darkness would be far better than the blatant daylight they'd been running in. Dennis glanced at the sky. They'd be less likely to get spotted by an Azteca airship at night.

 

Earlier, many miles downrange of Mafolie Pass, they'd captured an Azteca scout. Much to their surprise, the Aztecan knew several code phrases. The mongoose-men had few spies among the Azteca. It was a rare encounter.

Most Azteca who came over the mountains fled for Capitol City: Nanagada's farthermost northeastern point. As far from their past as they could get.

This Aztecan said his name was Oaxyctl. O-ash-k-tul. His teeth chattered. He had barely made it over the mountains. Shivering, hungry, and hardly understandable, he told them Mafolie Pass was under attack.

"That happen sometimes," the mongoose-men replied. Azteca threw various-sized attack parties at the pass randomly to test the thick walls and Mafolie's perfectly placed guns, but the pass remained impenetrable. The mongoose-men based Nanagada's defense from Mafolie Pass.

"Not from the pass," the spy hissed, his back against the rough bark of a turis tree, his legs in the mud.

"Mafolie Pass the only place any big army able to cross," Dennis objected.

The spy wiped his face with a dirty sleeve. "They dug a tunnel," he spat. "You understand?"

They blinked. "A tunnel? Under the whole mountain? We would know about that."

"Nopuluca," the spy cursed at them. "Azteca dug for a hundred years now. They fooled you into thinking they were still testing the pass while always digging. But they're here. Believe me. We are dead men."

He'd begged water and food off them. They'd told him where the next low-mountain station was. Then the strange spy scrambled off down the mountainside.

"If we all done dead," they called after him as he clambered down into the thick greenery, "why you come here? Where you think you going?"

But he had already disappeared into the bush.

Dennis and his mongoose-men broke their camp after a minute's consultation, leaving anything they couldn't carry where it sat, and started the run for Mafolie Pass.

 

The heavy morning mist made it impossible for Dennis to see more than a few trees ahead. Small animals skittered around them, noises amplified in the dimness. The mongoose-men relaxed a bit, back in the jungle now. They were still three hours from Mafolie Pass. Better they relax now and not fray their nerves before getting closer.

A twig snapped. Dennis signaled stop by flicking his wrist.

The group's rifle barrels rose in quiet unison.

"Pddeeett?" chirped a voice from deep in the mist. It sounded birdlike enough to fool any townie.

"Pass?" Dennis called out.

"Plain porridge," came the answer. "No sugar."

Everyone lowered their rifles. Their best runner, Allen, had dropped his packs and gone ahead yesterday to scout. Now he pushed through a pricker bush, sweat dripping from his forehead, and grabbed an offered canteen. He splashed water on his face.

"Come follow me." Allen wiped his face on his sleeve, smearing dirt over his cheeks and breaking a leaf off his hat.

"Azteca?" Dennis asked.

Allen nodded.

No one slung their rifles.

Allen led them down through a ravine, then back up the other side. They followed him, leaning into the sharply angled ground, arms loose, zigzagging up. A small dirt road cut through the bush at the top. Next to it a stone sentry-house perched on the ravine's edge. Thick moss clung to the cracks in the wall and dripped with condensation.

"You had see anything?" Dennis asked.

Allen shook his head. His baggy canvas shirt was stained with sweat over the chest and armpits. "It real quiet now," he said. "Come."

Together they walked forward. Allen pointed at a dead animal beside the sentry-house. Flies buzzed around it. Dennis walked over; saw a pair of hands bound with rope. "Look upon that." He pushed the flayed body with his boot. He managed to roll it over, breathing through his mouth to avoid the smell. He pulled his machete free from its scabbard strapped to his lower leg. "See that?" He pointed at the ragged hole between the corpse's second and third ribs.

"Them cut through for him heart," a mongoose-man said.

"Warrior-priest in a hurry, don't want cut through no breastbone," Allen added.

Dennis didn't see an eagle-stone imprint. Some passing Azteca warrior did this in a hurry without the usual Azteca equipment. Typical of a small hunting party come over thealmost impassable Wicked Highs ... but this was here in the heart of the mongoose-men's world.

Allen pointed to the sides of the dirt road. "See that crush-up leaf and footprint? I guess a thousand come through. At least."

A thousand. No small hunting party. A full invasion swing toward Mafolie Pass, but on this side of the mountain. Just as the spy had said.

Dennis glanced down the road, imagining the tightly packed throng of bright feathers and padded armor marching down the mountains and into Nanagada. If they destroyed Mafolie Pass, Azteca could come over the mountains with ease. With enough time and supplies they could march anywhere in Nanagada. The Azteca would rule everything if no longer held back by the mountains.

"Got some decisions for we make." Dennis squatted by the road. He leaned forward on the machete's handle for balance. The dark blade dug into the dirt. "You all ready for some heavy reasoning?"

The mongoose-men stood in a loose circle around him. Two stood up on either side of the road, looking around the curve for any surprises.

"Mafolie Pass probably already run over," Dennis said. "We late. So what next?"

Allen shuffled in the dirt. "No wheel imprint here." He looked up at everyone. "These Azteca all moving on foot, seen?"

"Make sense, wheel don't do you much good in the mountain."

"They have no supplies with them. They moving light, moving quick. But they go have to get supply coming behind them if they want eat."

Dennis thought about the hungry, tired spy. How much food could these Azteca carry? A few days' worth at the most.

There had to be supplies on the way.

"Yeah. More Azteca go be coming down the mountain," Dennis agreed. "We could choose to run down the mountain to warn people, or we can slow down Azteca supply."

"Could do both, if we split up," Allen said.

Dennis cleared his throat and looked around, an unspoken question in the air. Who stayed to face more Azteca, and who got to run down the mountain to do the warning?

 

They drew straws. Four men would split with Allen to run down the mountains and find the nearest station with a working telegraph. If all the wires were already cut, they would do their best to make it through the jungle to warn any towns they came across.

"Pddeeett!"

Dennis looked up. One of the men doing watch down the road. "Yeah?"

"Azteca!"

"Supply or warrior? How many?"

"Jaguar warrior party, no supply-men," the lookout yelled back. Dennis's stomach churned. A supply group would have been easy to ambush. "A hundred. They got clubs and packs and guns. A bunch of regular-looking warrior coming behind as well."

Allen looked at Dennis and unslung his rifle. Dennis shook his head. "Leave. Now. We go hold them down a bit. You run. Get the word out. Hear?"

Allen nodded and shook Dennis's hand. Then Dennis pushed Allen away and picked up his rifle. He jogged toward the bend as Allen grabbed his pack, strapped it on, and disappeared down the ravine with four mongoose-men following him.

Dennis slowed and inched his way up the roadside, using the heavy bush as cover. The lookout scrabbled his way over on his elbows and carefully parted a pricker bush for Dennis to look through.

Azteca feathers and standards flapped animal likenesses in the wind. The first scouts appeared down the road. Then the first row of regular Azteca marched out, a dust cloud rising around them.

"Some say a cornered mongoose the most vicious," Dennis said. "We go be even more ferocious."

The rest of his handful of men crawled into the bush near him. They dug around for the best hiding positions. One mongoose-man monkeyed up a tree, his feet kicking off loose bark.

Dennis raised his gun and sighted the lead banner carrier. "When you ready."

A rifle cracked from up in the tree. The Azteca line slowed. The mongoose-men opened fire and the first row of Azteca dropped to the road. Dennis fired. The gun bucked into his shoulder. He blinked his eyes clear and reloaded, levering the still-steaming spent cartridge out with a practiced flick.

The Azteca return fire ripped through the bush around him. Pain exploded down Dennis's arm. He grabbed his shoulder, trying to stop the blood spurting into the leaves around him. Feet pounded the ground as Azteca slashed through the branches at them.

Dennis heard more shots from his men, branches snapping, grunts, gasps, and screams as Azteca and mongoose-men fought hand to hand.

A light-skinned warrior jumped past Dennis, smacking him in the head with a club.

He struggled to raise his rifle with one hand, but it was knocked free. Two Jaguar scouts grabbed his legs and pulled him out onto the road. They aimed their weapons down at him.

Dennis lay there and looked up into the sky.

The mist had cleared away. Between the blotchy green leaves and branches he saw that a strong wind was pushing clouds rapidly through the sky, far above him.

Against the sound of the pitched jungle battle, the two rifles above him fired, one just after another.

Copyright © 2006 by Tobias S. Buckell

Table of Contents

Contents

Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
No escape!,
Prologue,
Part One - The Wicked Highs,
Part Two - Capitol City,
Part Three - The Northlands,
Part Four - The Bitter End,
Epilogue,
Praise for Crystal Rain,
Acknowledgments,
Find out what's beyond the wormhole in Ragamuffin,
Copyright Page,
Preview Page,
Excerpt Page,

Customer Reviews

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Crystal Rain 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
temporus on LibraryThing 10 months ago
I've been on a massive fantasy bender recently. It was about time that I took on a little something different, and I'd heard enough good things about this book to give it a whirl. What a nice jump back into science fiction. A very interesting world, with a back story that hits you at just the right pace--no long boring info-dumps, yet always enough information so that the story and action are credible. It bookended the month interestingly, where both this novel, and Lion's Blood, had "Aztecs" as the opposing force. As well, the heroes are of African descent in both works. That is about where the similarities end. Nanagada feels like an island itself, a world stranded among the stars. Though there has been a regression of technology, a sort of post cataclysmic (not apocalyptic) world, we see the mostly Caribbean descended culture in a phase of rebirth, when the feared enemy the Azteca are thrust upon the scene and life is no longer idyllic. I enjoyed seeing the layers involved in the war, and characters who are not easily broken down into white hats and black hats. Sure, there's no question in the end for whom a reader should be rooting, but there are no perfectly clean hands here. The war takes its toll, and the resolution felt all the more real for it.
geordicalrissian on LibraryThing 10 months ago
This was a pretty good read! The first 50 pages or so, I was fairly confused. Was this a scifi story? But, as the main character progresses towards regaining his memory, Buckell slowly makes it all the more clear. I loved the mix of language and cultures. It is not often that you find stories with Caribbean-background peoples as the main character. Good show!
TadAD on LibraryThing 10 months ago
This is a great start to a new science fiction series. It melds military science fiction with Aztec mythology. One can see some space opera coming down the road. It's all fast-paced and done well and, in these days when most science fiction is extremely derivative and formulaic, a breath of fresh air.
jprutter on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Ah, I really enjoyed this book and look forward to picking up the rest of the series. I was a little put off by the blimp on the cover because I don't enjoy many alternate histories. This isn't an alternate history though. Instead it is about a society that has regressed from an interstellar society to an ~1930s society. There are still remnants of high technology around and an alien race that form the central conflict. This book was just the right mix of high tech, low tech, and ancient for me. Recommended for any spec fic fan.
jes on LibraryThing 10 months ago
An excellent, very engaging read - I stayed up way past my bedtime to finish it. I loved the world-building & the culture-building, and the technology, both pre-apocalyptic and what happens with it post-apocalypse. There's lots of interesting ideas packed into the book - it would easily hold up under another more leisurely read or three. & I adored that this was a book where the heroes were of Caribbean origin, where the whole reason their people are on the planet is because two guys decided to help their communities get off Earth (yes, profit motivated them too, but not exclusively). The world needs more well-written sf/f about people of color, and this one is a welcome addition to my library.My one complaint is that it's all about men. There's one awesome female leader, and she is indeed awesome, but there's one of her and a slew of awesome male characters. What's up with that? I have the sequel, and I'm hoping it does better on this front.
bzedan on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Aztecs and Rasta and who knows what else washed up on a planet and trying to re-learn the technology that brought them there and what the hells is going on. Aztec Gods that live in creepy-ass glory! Airship battles! Enjoyable island dialect that sounds natural, glory be!I sound snarky, but it was a breath of fresh air to read about science instad of magic in a Tor download.
Esmeraldus on LibraryThing 10 months ago
I really liked Crystal Rain. I read it on my own after I was assigned to review Ragamuffin for the SFRA Review. The reviews I usually write are meant to be balanced, and very heavy on context. That¿s my philosophical position on the purpose of most reviews, so it works for me. Context is everything. But since I¿m not writing for any particular publication at the moment, I don¿t have to be balanced unless it pleases me to be so, and it does not.I¿ve been looking for some good SF to take up the slack left by the lack of new Heinlein novels. He surprised me by posthumously producing For Us, The Living, but I don¿t think there are any more. I think that Buckell¿s kick-ass characters have some resonance with Heinlein¿s characters, and I like that. One good thing about having written a reputable review of Ragamuffin is that I can quote it:¿one or two solitary, quasi-immortal characters who are technologically enhanced, augmented human beings hundreds of years old¿very much like the characters in Wil McCarthy¿s To Crush the Moon, or Heinlein¿s Friday. Sometimes the action highlights the separateness of these superhuman people, each of whom is capable of taking out entire squadrons of trained soldiers alone. But the two we meet, Nashara and Pepper, are both part of something larger.Some of the specific things I liked about Crystal Rain were the vividness of the main characters¿ culture, the combat, and the sustained tension of the siege situations.There is some beautiful stuff in there balancing the threat of something dangerous inside against something dangerous outside. I¿m thinking of the journey on the ice, which uses the trope of a dangerous presence in a confined location in a hostile environment to excellent effect¿that pays homage to Alien, The Thing, and many others.And it may just be a matter of taste, but I really love how Buckell constructs almost unkillable protagonists, and then he almost kills them. He made me believe that one of the main characters might die, even though I¿d already read the second book and knew he hadn¿t. That plot definitely wasn¿t on rails, because I knew where it ended up, but I couldn¿t plot every move the author was going to make to get there.Secret underwater cave? Oh, yeah. I want one of those.
MaryRobinetteKowal on LibraryThing 10 months ago
The world in Crystal Rain manages to seamlessly blend steam-punk with fantasy and high-tech sf. It's a pretty impressive feat. I kept having trouble sleeping because I was staying up waaaay too late to find out what happens next. Tobias S. Buckell has written a ripping page-turner, for sure.
elizabeth_s on LibraryThing 10 months ago
I enjoyed this, though it¿s not the sort of thing I usually read. Once I got into it, I kept going to find out how the world had gotten into the state it was in, rather than to find out what would happen to it or to the characters.The world was quite refreshing: it¿s not a white American based setting, and it felt very real.As with most multi-POV books, there were some I didn¿t enjoy as much as the others. I didn¿t really get into the book at all until I hit the first ¿repeat¿ chapter (the first time there was a POV who had already had a chapter). I enjoyed deBrun and Oaxyctl (esp. the way O.¿s plotline ended). The scenes with Dihana, the government¿s leader, seemed important to the plot, or at least the background, but I didn¿t enjoy reading them. The son¿s chapters could have been left out entirely, in my opinion.I am curious to get another peek at the world in about 50 years.
pstotts on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Uniqueness can be a difficult thing to find in fantasy literature, as most novels follow the general archetypes. The medieval English setting established in the Sir Thomas Malory¿s classic ¿Le Morte d¿Arthur¿ has been grossly overused in the genre. So it is immensely refreshing to discover a fantasy/sci-fi novel that revolves around a Caribbean/South American type of setting. Creativity is a wonderful thing.¿Crystal Rain¿, the strong debut novel by Tobias S. Buckell, is a unique hybrid that attempts to be something special. And in making such an ambitious attempt, the novel distinguishes itself. You likely will not forget a novel that is a hybrid of fantasy and science fiction elements, where the characters talk like Caribbean islanders, alien gods patrol the land, and the Azteca are the invading force. (And if you do forget it, I want your reading list.) Buckell is to be commended for not playing it safe, and rehashing the same tired fantasy genre clichés.The novel is set in the Caribbean-styled Nanagada, a peninsula protected by a mountain range, the Wicked Highs, on the landed side. Almost immediately, the brutal Azteca have invaded Nanagada, seeking blood and human sacrifice to satiate their gods. John deBrun lives with his wife Shanta and son Jerome outside of the town of Brungstun in the shadow of the Wicked Highs. Soon they find themselves caught in the battle with the Azteca, becoming separated from each other in the confusion. John, who has no memory of his life prior to arriving in Nanagada twenty-seven years earlier, is saved from being a sacrifical lamb by the Aztecan mongoose man, Oaxyctl. Together they travel to Capitol City, the governmental and major population center of Nanagada, meager steps ahead of the advancing Azteca army. Meanwhile, John¿s son Jerome is saved by the mysterious Pepper, a dreadlocked badass who is searching for John, claiming to be an old friend. Pepper oozes more violence and menace than the evening news. On reaching Capitol City, John discovers he is an instrumental part in the plan to stop the Azteca invasion. Somewhere within John¿s forgotten memories, he has knowledge of the Ma Wi Jung, an artifact that may save the Nanagadans. Can John regain his lost memories and save the Nanagadans? And who is Pepper and what is his interest in John? What is Oaxyctl¿s real agenda?The pacing of ¿Crystal Rain¿ is swift with the majority of the chapters only being a few pages long. The story mainly evolves through action, drawing the reader quickly through novel. The biggest negative to this lightning-fast pace is a lack of more extensive cultural information about the world; the world-building is unfortunately minimal other than a moderate amount of physical description of Nanagada. There are so many interesting cultural and religious aspects about the Nanagadans and the Azteca that could have been further explored by Buckell. But he misses the opportunity. This is a fantasy setting that screams for a more extensive examination. Sacrificing the pace for a more complete Nanagada would have been worth it. Considering the novel¿s pacing, the characters are well-drawn. Pepper really jumps off the page; the mystery surround him being one of the most intriguing aspects of ¿Crystal Rain¿. He was the one character I most wanted to read about, not only in this book but in future books. The uniqueness of ¿Crystal Rain¿ makes it a strong debut for Buckell, but it could have been special if the pacing had been sacrificed for more world-building. When you create a setting this amazing, it is natural for the to want to explore it more thoroughly. And it is in wanting more from this novel that makes ¿Crystal Rain¿ an overall success.Last Word:¿Crystal Rain¿ is a worthy read, filled with a unique setting and fresh creativity. Fast paced action and short chapters will have the reader ripping through the story, but a lack of in-depth world-building keeps the book from achieving more. Ultimately, ¿Crystal Rain¿ is ooz
Shrike58 on LibraryThing 10 months ago
While this isn't the best first novel I've ever read, it is a pretty good adventure story, as a castaway on a lost colony world is called back into service to fight Aztec-inspired hordes fielded by long-lived aliens.What I'm mostly marking this novel down for is falling on the wrong side of the line between spare and sparse, as this book could have been a little longer (allowing for more character and social development). At the very least one of the secondary characters, an Azteca double-agent, is much more interesting then the protagonist. I'm still looking forward to more work by this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wanted spaceopera steampunk pirates and thats pretty much what I got.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was the first and will be the last book that I read by this author. The pacing was poor, the characters were underdeveloped and the storyline was not very believable or developed. A waste of money, there are much better books out there.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
CRYSTAL RAIN is non-stop in action, but doesn't sacrifice character along the way. The multiple POVs and dialects engaged me. The Caribbean setting was absorbing. TOBIAS BUCKELL gave us a great steam punk story here within a unique culture.
harstan More than 1 year ago
The Wicked High Mountains prevented the Aztecas from conquering the peaceful Nanagadans, a colony of Caribbean refugees because there is no way an army can pass through the only small pass. The Aztecas worship their gods the Teotl and the Nanagadans serve their gods the Laoas not realizing the ¿gods¿ are really aliens who use the humans to war against each other because Loasas and the Teotl want to destroy one another.------ For over a century the Aztecas have dug a tunnel under the mountains and are poised to invade Nanagada. Only one man can stop them John deBrun but he has suffered from amnesia for twenty seven years and has made a new life for himself with his wife and son. Many people are looking for John including Oaxcytl, who was ordered by a Teotl to get the coordinates of the Ma Wi Jung and his comrade Pepper who has been stranded on this backwater planet for three centuries and wants John to use the Ma Wi Jung to help them go home. On an expedition to the frozen North John is almost killed while the Azteca prepares to break through to the city. Only John can save them if his memories return in time to devise a plan that will force the Aztecs to retreat.------ Tobias F. Buckell is a fantastic world builder exploring the cultures of the various people living in Nanagada. Through Oaxyctl, readers get a glimpse into the Azteca culture that is much like the Aztec civilization on old Earth complete with blood sacrifices and slavery. John is a stranger in a strange land but he loves his adopted world and is willing to fight to keep her safe. CRYSTAL RAIN is an exciting work of science fiction filled with lush descriptions, a fast paced action oriented plot and characters that are complex and realistically drawn.----- Harriet Klausner