Rosa Montero’s novel, Tears in Rain, is a detective story set in a futuristic Madrid where humans live side-by-side with androids called replicants. Yes, this is a book that takes a lot of its cues from Blade Runner, but it does it in an upfront manner that I liked. The book doesn’t feel like it is borrowing too heavily, but rather they have very similar influences and headed in different directions. So, what you get is an interesting mystery story with a replicant detective named Bruna Husky who is trying to find the cause of some bizarre replicant suicides. She is also forced to deal with the increasing racism directed at reps at all levels of society.
The thing is, the story works. This is a great story with a strong sci-fi flavor. I could talk about the interesting, little touches that made the world feel vibrant and real. I could talk about the interesting characters. I could talk about all of that and more, but I really just liked it. This is a fun read.
The writing was clean and impressive, which is all the more remarkable when you consider that the book was translated from Spanish. The translation was wonderfully done, but I suspect that most of the credit can be given to Montero. Montero has done a great bit of world building here. The city, crime, drugs, issues, and society felt rich and tied to the world of the novel, but they almost fit in our world, too. Like most of the best sci-fi, this is a book that is using the future to tell a story about today. It does it well.
I had two small gripes with the story. One big one is the violation of one of my rules of sci-fi. There should only be one major plot-related sci-fi element per story. This, of course, doesn’t include technologies that are related. I also don’t care about how the toaster works. So, when a story is about aliens invading Earth, you set the story in the present. When a story is about time-travel, you don’t also include giant robots. When a story is about the relations between humans and androids, you don’t add aliens (I am looking at you, A.I.). Before any fans of that TV show you love start to light their pitchforks and pull their torches out of the hay, the rules for TV and comics are different; the rule applies to each episode, not the show as a whole. There are aliens in Tears in Rain and they don’t impact the story much at all. There is a relatively prominent alien character, but since his impact is not really based on his being an alien, I don’t think the story benefits that much.
The other issue I had was that the story is told from a tight third-person perspective, except for the few times when it isn’t. About a third of the way through the book, there is a sudden change in perspective for a chapter. Then, after about another third, there are three short chapters in a row from different points of view. In all four cases, plus the one time at the end when I noticed a one sentence shift in POV, there is important information for the reader, and it seems that the shifts might have been the most effective method of getting the information across. My issue is that it pulled me out of the story for a minute.
So, the good news is that I always got right back into the story. I can go out on a limb and say that this was one of my favorite books so far this year. I liked the world. I liked the characters, especially the protagonist. I liked the story. This might not be the groundbreaking science fiction masterpiece that Blade Runner was, but it is a worthwhile addition to the genre.
Four Origami Unicorns out of Five.