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Product Details

  • Series: Red Thunder (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Ace (April 27, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0441011624
  • ISBN-13: 978-0441011629
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 4.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,007,996 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

All in all, a terrific book -- one I would recommend to anyone, including older teens and non-science fiction fans.
Thomas Baldovin
The characters are well drawn, you get a feel for why they do what they do, the science is plausible within the framework of the book, and the plot moves along.
S. N. Gaines
Unfortunately, he would have been better served by cutting out the first 150 pages of the book and deleting all the sex.
David A. Lessnau

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Murphy on 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 By Doug D. Eigsti on May 20, 2003
Format: Hardcover
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 By J. R Weaver VINE VOICE on 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 By Kindle Customer on July 31, 2003
Format: Hardcover
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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I love Varley. His Titan trilogy stands as one of the finest works in all SF. That's why this is --so-- disappointing. As others have pointed out, this is vaguely reminiscent of Heinlein's juvenile SF, but it is not nearly as good. This isn't appropriate for juveniles and I don't even think they would find it interesting. The first half of the book is about the variously messed up lives of some uninteresting teenagers. The character development is poor, the dialog is wooden. The "washed up ex-astronaut" and the events that led to his disgrace are implausible and the "character" is very poorly developed. The novel is supposed to be filled with coon-ass cajuns from south Lousiana. Well, I grew up in New Orleans, and these characters are completely hollow, with no authenticity.
I can't recommend this book at all. Read Titan/Wizard/Demon or the short fiction by this author, but this book is one to avoid.
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