Review: Ragamuffin by Tobias S. Buckell
I’ve also reviewed Crystal Rain, Buckell’s first book. The next book in this series, Sly Mongoose, is available in hardcover August 19th. When you check out these books in the store, be sure to spread out the wrap-around cover to fully appreciate Todd Lockwood’s art. I’d kill for Ragamuffin’s full cover as a desktop on my computer.
It had been three hundred and fifty-seven years, three months, and four days since the emancipation of humanity. And for most, it did them little good.
That’s how we’re introduced to Ragamuffin, the second book by Tobias S. Buckell. There’s a lot packed into that first declarative sentence. Emancipation implies that there was slavery. In general a time scale is established. In specific, knowing the exact historical date, hints at the layered reality technology that will offer some cyberpunk spice throughout the story. Most importantly it sets up the status quo that will systematically be disassembled by an extraordinary cast of characters.
In Crystal Rain, aliens had insinuated themselves as gods. That was on a planet cut off from the rest of the Universe by closed wormholes. In Ragamuffin we see the entirety of the wormhole network known to humanity and everywhere we find humans they are treated as second class citizens or worse. Fighting back against this injustice is the noble goal of both the heavily modified warrior main character and others we encounter along the way.
The question of where humanity actually fits into the society of the larger universe is hotly (as in explosive battles) debated, but largely left to be decided in future volumes. Ragamuffin spends many of it’s pages describing interesting technology and finding even more interesting uses for it. There are guns (lots of guns but their most interesting uses aren’t death), space worthy vessels of all shapes and sizes (from ziplock bags to modified asteroids), ubiquitous virtual reality, sky hooks, wormholes (I love how the wormhole map at the front of the book looks like a subway map), mind control and the ultimate mechanical turk.
Ragamuffin is painted on a very large canvas, but the story arc created in Crystal Rain is an important element in the final composition. We also get a few quick mentions of the setting for the third novel. The future Buckell has created is rich and creepy but a ton of fun to experience through the stories he tells.