Tears in Rain by Rosa Montero

Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I’ve 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.

-Roy, Blade Runner 

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Fan fiction is a dirty word, isn’t it? It carries with it a connotation of corrupting someone else’s intellectual property. Unfortunately, that connotation tends to ignore homage, an allusion to previous work on which a current project is based. To call Rosa Montero’s Tears in Rain fan fiction is a bit of a stretch. There’s no inclusion of characters from another’s work or a continuation of any particular plot point, but it is, as the quote above indicates, fundamentally based on Blade Runner, the Ridley Scott film sourced from Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Montero posits a world in which Blade Runner the film existed and also came true. It’s an homage, but in a far more overt manner than is typical.

When Bruna Husky is attacked by a fellow replicant (or rep), who ultimately dies from self inflicted wounds, she begins to ask questions, catching the eye of the Radical Replicant Movement (RRM). Husky, a former combat rep now working as a private detective, is quickly hired to discover why reps are dying all over Madrid. As the plot unravels, Tears in Rain becomes a classic whodunit with far reaching implications that go far beyond the simple crime of murder.

Bruna Husky is the typical hard boiled detective. She drinks to excess, regrets her past mistakes, and seems continually down on her luck. As a replicant, Husky feels isolated, and rejected. Created for a purpose, her term of service is at an end, now among humans who almost universally deny her right to live. Throughout, she repeats a mantra,

Four years, three months, and twenty-seven days.

It’s the ticking bomb inside every replicant — ten years of life, no more. Husky also carries with her a tattoo that runs, uninterrupted,  down her face to her toes and around. It bisects her, symbolizing not only her separation from humans, but the divide within herself, the rejection of the identity forced on her by her makers. These themes make up the bulk of Montero’s subtext, building off the ideas only tangentially addressed in Scott’s classic film, largely a result of Scott’s ambiguity toward Deckard’s ‘human status’.

Although Husky is the novel’s primary focus, Montero scatters other points of view throughout, a memory writer obsessed with finding the rep he implanted with his own memories, a human cop trying to make sense of things, and an old man searching for purpose. Each has a role to play in Tears in Rain, but the intent behind each of them trends more toward the didactic, to explain and understand the impacts of artificially created life, and, more relevant to now, defining societies by us and them.

‘. . .because deep down, all you humans are afraid of us. . . You despise us and, at the same time, you fear us. You too, Inspector? Do I scare you? Do I disgust you?’

Montero’s characters are woven into her setting, conjuring notions of identity and equality in a science fictional milieu that forces the reader to confront not just the replicants’ plight, but that of the real world’s disenfranchised.

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Structurally, the novel is a straight forward third person limited narrative, interspersed with Wikipedia like entries that provide an exceptional amount of historical information in an attempt to add context. They are nearly useless, serving only to bog down an otherwise briskly paced book. There are also times Montero falls into an over reliance on procedural writing that shows where it should tell. I admit the translation from Spanish to English likely did no favors in that regard.

Sadly, I wouldn’t consider Tears in Rain particularly Spanish. It is very much in the tradition of American science fiction, inspired by and written like the same. I would be lying if that didn’t disappoint me to some degree. I picked the novel up because I wanted to read outside the English point of view. Nevertheless, Rosa Montero has written a strong response to Blade Runner, building on many of the places Ridley Scott was unwilling to tread. Even with some hiccups as it relates to pace and structure, Tears in Rain is an easy novel to recommend, and an exceptional companion to the film.

Written by Justin Landon

Justin Landon

Justin Landon is the Overlord of Staffer’s Book Review. When he’s not writing things of dubious value to the world, he’s at the gym or being a dad. You can follow him on a multitude of social media, which is strongly suggested lest you miss out on vital information that could someday save your life.