There are few more memorable characters than Bruna Husky, the protagonist of Tears in Rain.
Bruna’s many challenges allow Ms. Montero to paint a complex character dealing with issues few humans have; she is a replicant (android) who knows more precisely than we, the span of her days. Her mortality is ever-present even as she remains eternally youthful while alive. I say she knows the span of her days (less than 5 years) and even the dreadful end (her partner reached his limit), but there are forces which will make that outer limit out of reach. She is caught up in major plans to change the political status quo.
While the narrative of this book is first rate, Ms. Montero’s true genius is in the characters and relationships which make her excellent world creation and clever plot take on that extra dimension to become a truly superb novel. The writing itself is hard to judge since this is a translation by Lilith Zekulin Thwaites. While I can’t compare the original, what I read was quite good. (On that note, kudos to the Amazon Crossing program for bringing foreign novels to our English reading eyes and English novels into other languages.)
Bruna’s stark physical appearance (the book’s amazing cover captures her quite well) of a single tattooed line, cat-eyes, and tall frame match her personality.
She dives in, lives on the edge and comes back for more whilst many forces array against her. She is not, however, friendless. Her allies include a (digital) librarian (never underestimate librarians), a memory designer, an alien, and a cop. She is embroiled in a mess and she must solve it. Her (short) survival depends on it.
This novel delves into issues of prejudice and class (replicants are 2nd class citizens), dreams unmet and cultural clashes. It is mostly about our deepest desires, our difficulty in risking those desires and dreams with others and the forces of the world that will beat them down.
There is an explicit, direct tie to Blade Runner with a number of the concepts and nomenclature relying on that film, but this is very much its own novel. Indeed, comparing the two (and comparisons seem inevitable), the themes of a limited life-span and a minority treated as a second class citizen is explored much more deeply while fear of the “other”, whether it’s robots or replicants, is handled more subtly. In Ms. Montero’s world, they have legal protection (received after the replicant wars) and theoretical equal status with the reality being otherwise. Mr. Dick’s world in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (the novel basis of Blade Runner) had them banned from earth. The protagonist in Dick’s novel is hunted down rogue replicants who broke the ban and came to earth seeking to extend their lives. Bruna is confronted with a painful, months-long near-future death while the replicants in Blade Runner die semi-enviably quickly. Indeed, Bruna thinks back to the old film from the 80s and has this perspective on Roy Batty’s speech
Bruna had learned by heart the final words spoken by the main rep character on the rain-swept rooftop before he died: “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time like tears in rain. Time to die.” And then he lowered his head and died so easily. So easily. Like an electric machine that someone unplugs. Without suffering the nightmare of TTT. But his powerful words reflected wonderfully the inconsistency of life, of that subtle, beautiful insignificance which time was unraveling without leaving a trace. The rep in Blade Runner lowered his head and died while the rain ran down his cheeks, perhaps hiding his final tears.
Montero, Rosa (2012-11-27). Tears in Rain (p. 208). AmazonEncore. Kindle Edition.
Bruna, with a little help from her friends, confronts her mortality, short-comings and her own strength and beauty in a way we mere humans rarely have the courage to do. Her journey is filled with action, a clever plot, a few surprises and a slew of interesting characters. Your time will be well rewarded reading Tears in Rain.
Finally, a note on the audiobook. As I often do, I went between my Kindle (Paperwhite) version and the Audible (Windows Phone 8) version of the book using Whispersync. Mary Robinette Kowal narrates the story in her characteristically fabulous fashion. Her voice for Bruna was dead on: pleasant but with an edge. I thoroughly recommend the Audible version as well.