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Red Thunder [Kindle Edition]

John Varley
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $7.99
Kindle Price: $5.99
You Save: $2.00 (25%)
Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC


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Book Description

Seven suburban misfits are constructing a spaceship out of old tanker cars. The plan is to beat the Chinese to Mars--in under four days at three million miles an hour. It would be history in the making if it didn't sound so insane.

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Editorial Reviews Review

Debuting in 1974, John Varley became the decade's freshest, most exciting, and most important new science fiction author. He dominated the Seventies with numerous stories and two novels, set mostly in his Eight Worlds future history. By 1984 he had won three Hugo Awards and two Nebula Awards. Yet his output dwindled through the 1980s, and in the 1990s he released only two novels, Steel Beach and The Golden Globe, a pair of Eight Worlds books that received tepid responses.

Fans who feared Varley was devolving into another Robert A. Heinlein imitator may have mixed reactions to Red Thunder, Varley's first novel of the new millennium. Part of SF's turn-of-the-century trend of "Mars novels," but not part of Varley's Eight Worlds series, Red Thunder reads a lot like a Heinlein juvenile novel, if Heinlein were alive and writing juveniles in 2003. Varley's paying tribute to the Master's juveniles, especially Rocket Ship Galileo and Red Planet (and also, more subtly, to the ending of Alfred Bester's novel The Stars My Destination). Though Varley is working with decades-old tropes and is not in his full wildly-imaginative 1970s mode, Red Thunder is an enjoyable SF novel that should win back many disgruntled fans and gain him a new generation of admirers. --Cynthia Ward

From Publishers Weekly

And the heart-pounding space race is on! When a Chinese spacecraft, Heavenly Harmony, threatens to land on Mars a few days before the U.S. shuttle vehicle Ares Seven, washed-up ex-astronaut Travis Broussard, his brilliant but unconventional cousin, Jubal, and four kids from Florida decide to build their own private spaceship, Red Thunder, and get there first in this riveting SF thriller from Hugo and Nebula award winner Varley. Jubal has invented an amazing new power source, the Squeezer, which provides enough thrust to get them to Mars in a mere three days. While the Chinese and other Americans head to Mars the long way, the team works feverishly to build a spaceworthy craft, because although they all want Americans to land on Mars first, a more pressing reason for their visit to the red planet arises. Jubal has discovered a potentially disastrous design flaw in Ares Seven, which has Travis's ex-wife aboard. With a plausible cover story, a lot of help and a raided trust fund, Red Thunder gets built. Will its creators evade the feds who keep nosing around? Will they launch? Will they beat the Chinese to Mars? Can they save Ares Seven? Do you have to ask? In the end, they put their lives on the line, proving that Everyman can be a hero, too. With hilarious, well-drawn characters, extraordinary situations presented plausibly, plus exciting action and adventure, this book should do thunderously well.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 640 KB
  • Print Length: 415 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0441010156
  • Publisher: Ace (April 27, 2004)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #76,484 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I haven't enjoyed a book this much in a long time April 7, 2003
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is a departure for John Varley, which he pulls off impressively. It has the feel of the later (non-juvenile)Heinlein "juveniles" (particularly Tunnel In the Sky), and this is obviously not an accident -- a number of references to Heinlein's work are scattered throughout, and I'm not sure I found them all. As in "Jubal, this is Manny my best friend."
The story is simple and outrageous -- 4 diverse twenty-year-olds stumble across a drunkard ex-astronaut, who just happens to have an eccentric genius cousin, who just happens to have invented the perfect space drive (an energy-producing device seemingly of infinite efficiency). For a number of reasons, it seems like a good plan for them to surreptitiously build a spaceship and go to Mars, hoping to beat the competing Chinese and American missions already on the way.
Of course, it's never that simple, and several varieties of black hats and paranoia impede their attempt, things go wrong, people need rescuing, but all is right, and more than right, in the end.
If you're looking for deep meaning or angst, look elsewhere. If you want a book to ENJOY they way you did when you were reading "Moon Is a Harsh Mistress" or "Double Star", go buy this book.
A fine book for hopeful people of all ages.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Far too good to leave to the kids. May 20, 2003
Based on the dust jacket blurb I would not have cracked the spine had not the name John Varley been on the cover. The description just does not sound interesting. But because it was a Varley book I sought out the book immediately, and was not disappointed; for it is this very fact that the plot does not thrill that makes you appreciate how masterful Varley is at telling a story.
Unlike his other novels, which are set in exotic locales, such as Saturn's rings or Luna's underground disneylands, that have an attraction all their own, Varley has chosen to set RT largely in Florida's redneck country. It is as if he is intentionally breaking form with his other locales. Although, on the surface, it may seem mundane this book gives nothing away to his other, more ostentatious, efforts, such as his Gaea trilogy, or the baroque Eight Worlds stories. It just doesn't seem to matter what the subject, Varley is able to engage the reader sublimely. Despite my ambivalence to the plot, I found myself, in the midst of reading, marveling at how enthralled I was by a novel that did not contain what I have come to regard as essential Varley elements. RT showcases his knack for characterization without any distractions. For this reason RT may be his most accomplished performance, demonstrating that his typical shock and awe techniques are just so much window dressing disguising the fact that he is a supreme storyteller.
The characters are so expertly drawn that the reader finds himself becoming pulled into the story regardless of the initial appeal of the story line. One finds himself empathizing with the characters and then, by association, becoming involved in the sequence of events simply because the characters care about what is happening.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice Departure. November 18, 2005
Format:Mass Market Paperback
In this stirring tribute to Heinlein, the space program, US ingenuity, the power of family, and everything in between, John Varley has won back a reader.

I read and enjoyed the 'Titan' series years and years ago, but... what happened since then - autopilot? But here he is again, the master in top form. Red Thunder is everything a novel should be - funny, moving, tense, and ultimately, fufilling.

The science is not 'hard science', but that merely improves an already outstanding story, in my opinion. Long-winded and scientifically rigorous science would have only slowed down this fast-paced story. Brilliant characterization - it's been a good long while since a cast of characters has come alive so well for me.

The ending is stirring and cynical all at the same time, and I closed the book with a satisfied grin on my face - the best compliment I can pay to any author, I think.

Here's hoping Varley decides to write a sequel - long live the crew of the Red Thunder!
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars John Varley's "Rocketship Galileo" July 31, 2003
I've always loved Robert Heinlein's "Rocketship Galileo". Sure, it's the weakest of his juveniles, since he was just learning to write for that market. But it is the first Heinlein novel I ever read at the tender age of seven and for my money it is still the best damned Atomic Nazi's on the Moon SF novel ever written. So it was with great pleasure that I read John Varley's "Red Thunder". "Red Thunder" is set in the near future, our protagonists are Manny, Dak, Kelly, Travis, Alicia and Jubal who manage to take a breakthrough in physics discovered by the brilliant but wildly impractical Jubal and turn it into a working space ship. The book reads like an updated "Rocketship Galileo" except the characters drink, get laid and deal with a far more realistic world and problems than Heinlein's foursome ever did. Buy this book, sit back and enjoy the ride, it will make you wish that Varley were a more prolific writer.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "We were the first!" January 25, 2007
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Think, as the characters themselves say, "The Little Rascals Go to Mars," and you'll be close to the flavor of this engaging book. There's also a fair amount of Heinlein juvenile (especially _Rocket Ship Galileo_), which is understandable since Varley is a deep fan of Heinlein. The setting is Daytona, Florida, where Manny Garcia, twenty-year-old heir to a crumbling motel, and his best friend, Dak, and his girl, Kelly, and Dak's girl, Alicia, nearly run over a drunken ex-astronaut on the beach one night. (Lots of Heinleinian names, there, too.) The astronaut is Travis Broussard, one of a large clan of Cajuns from the Florida panhandle, and cousin of Jubal, a mildly autistic Einstein-class genius, who has invented (he's not quite sure how) a "squeezer" -- a device whose nature is never really explained, but which is the potential source of nearly unlimited energy. But Manny and Dak are both space nuts and to them and the girls, the Squeezer means a way of getting to Mars, where American and Chinese spaceships are now headed. With the power source taken care of it, would it really be possible to build -- in the course of one summer and with a budget of only one million dollars -- a privately-owned vehicle capable of getting them to the Red Planet and back? Varley shows you how it might, maybe, possibly, be done. With NASA having done most of the research and testing over the years, and with computers so small and cheap, and with many of the necessary parts (like a food freezer from Sears) purchased off-the-shelf, and with vital specialized hardware like space suits available for a little dickering from Russia, and with Travis's extensive experience as a space pilot, . . . well, why not? I'm sure there are plenty of implausibilities, but who cares? It's all great fun, in any case.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Old SF!
If you like the grand science fiction trope of home made spaceships made of elbow grease, you'll love this story. it's an adventure full of character development and engineering.
Published 3 months ago by Denis Loubet
5.0 out of 5 stars A TWISTER
A fun ride! Very thought provoking and entertaining, jump onboard! Varley can be extremely humorous and makes the rebel in all of us enjoy the irony of this story!
Published 4 months ago by Greg Bell
5.0 out of 5 stars New series, very enjoyable
This book begins a brand new series from Varley, completely unrelated to his "Invasion" series or the Gaean trilogy. Read more
Published 5 months ago by David Masters
5.0 out of 5 stars Old Fashioned Space Romp
Varley creates or recreates a simple world where a lovely group of misfits take on and beat the evil, shadowy government encountering very real and very personal obstacles along... Read more
Published 13 months ago by M. Ries
5.0 out of 5 stars Great young adult fiction.
This is a fantastic bit of soft sci-fi for the young adult. I can't wait until Google brings us highways like those portrayed here.
Published 22 months ago by E. Hansen
5.0 out of 5 stars This ain't your father's NASA!
Is there a rebellious streak in us to desire characters who short-cut the bureaucracies around us? Desire the oft-told stories of good people who cannot fit into big projects? Read more
Published 22 months ago by A Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars Not much science in this fiction...
In short, I expected a sci-fi story about a home built spaceship to be a bit more technical. While the author did an adequate job establishing the characteristics of his miracle... Read more
Published on April 17, 2012 by T. Vance
3.0 out of 5 stars Not awful, but he is capable of so much more
When I read Titan, Wizard, and Demon more years ago now than I care to count, I thought to myself, this is some of the most imaginative Science-Fiction/Fantasy blended storytelling... Read more
Published on February 14, 2012 by Ryan A Miller
4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable read
There may be greater literary works in sci-fi, but I thoroughly
enjoyed this book. It left me with a very up-beat feeling when
I finished. Read more
Published on January 8, 2012 by historybuff
4.0 out of 5 stars hooray for interplanetary goofiness
With all the novelists writing in the genre "Florida Folks doing Weird Stuff," (Dave Barry, Carl Hiaasen, Joy Fielding, John D. Read more
Published on September 13, 2010 by Donald T. Wardlow
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