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Rolling Thunder Hardcover – Bargain Price, March 4, 2008

44 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Nebula and Hugo–winner Varley continues the space opera saga of the Garcia-Strickland clan (last encountered in 2006's Red Lightning) in this enjoyable if simplistic tale. Patricia Kelly Elizabeth Podkayne Strickland-Garcia-Redmond, daughter of an earlier series hero, Ray Garcia-Strickland, is glad for any excuse to escape her job as the Martian consul in California, but the news calling her home is dire: her great grandmother is ill and about to go into suspended animation. After a family reunion, Podkayne heads to Europa, where a disaster forces her own suspension. The solar system she awakens to 10 years later is radically different. Podkayne learns of looming trials threatening the survival of mankind and tackles them with undiminished determination. Varley has deliberately made Podkayne an uncomplicated figure who lets major events and traumas roll right off her, rendering her a less than satisfying protagonist despite her heroics. (Mar.)
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From Booklist

Varley concludes the solar system exploration trilogy of Red Thunder (2004) and Red Lightning (2006) with a zany Heinlein homage, whose immediate tip-off for the fans comes with the disclosure that the protagonist prefers to be called by one of her middle names, Podkayne (see Heinlein’s Podkayne of Mars, 1963). Assigned to the cultural affairs wing of the Martian Navy, she is sent to the Jovian satellite Europa, nominally as an entertainer. She is shortly hip deep in intelligence work, for which she has hardly any training, but also for which she could end up paying with her life. Meanwhile, she becomes the erotic mentor of young Juba, a role for which she has more qualifications and more interest. Readers who have by this time stopped giggling won’t stop reading until they reach the end, where they may launch a peroration largely composed of the titles of the classic Heinlein juveniles, on which at least two generations of readers cut their sf teeth. Not for the humor-impaired, definitely for Varley fandom. --Roland Green

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Ace Books (March 4, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0441015638
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,110,912 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By T. A. Clark on April 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The Good:

The writing style is terrific. It feels human, it adds to characters, and is brilliant in its direction of the point of view.

The Bad:

Lazy story craft and characterization. It's a major turn off in a science fiction series to be presented with characters in the future that continually refer to present day themes and seem to identify with an age far before when the story takes place.

It's a character driven novel, and Varley handles characters very well; I just found the continual references to anything and everything 20th century to be distracting to the point of pulling me out of the story. Takes a bit too much pleasure in its references to 20th century popular culture and other works of that time period to be a serious piece of science fiction, and suffers mightily for it.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Nordeaster71 on November 23, 2009
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I used to be a big John Varley fan, but am now pretty disappointed. Some of the older books are very good, and it's obvious he greatly amires Heinlein. Personally, I don't understand the infatuation with RH, as the guy writes the same stories over and over, but what the heck, I'm sure there are some good reasons, and the guy is practically a god in the sci-fi pantheon.

The protagnist is an 18 year old cadet in the Martian Navy. Only she's 18 going on about 40 in her understanding of the world. Seriously, if human 18 year olds were this worldly and understanding that would be truly amzing. So while this is hard sci-fi, and that by definition stretches the bounds of practicality, it seems that only the Garcia-Strickland and Broussard clans are born of such stock, and the remainder of humanity is much more average (or worse - there are some good parts like when Poddy discourages a vapid "Earthie" from emmigrating to Mars).

There are also some parts, especially towards the end of the book where it looks like Varley just got tired of writing or something. There are several plot lines or story arcs that end more or less abruptly, and he just sums up what happened. This is the kind of stuff I expect in excessively complicated stories (Robert Jordan), or very long movies. But an average length paperback? What happened there? Did he run into some kind of deadline from an advance or contract?

Varley's books are definitely written for adults, complete with adult language, themes, sex, violence, and all the details you can imagine. For the most part I regards this as a good thing because so much of life and civilization is not rated PG-13.

I wouldn't call this the worst ever or even a waste of money, but John Varley has written some *much* better novels and short stories than Rolling Thunder.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By David Kveragas on April 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I was looking forward to reading this title after having enjoyed the previous two titles in the series so much.
Unfortunately I was somewhat disapointed with the whole book.
I found it difficult to get into the viewpoint of a young woman telling the story and basically whining and complaining through the first half.
The book undulates, rather than rolls and there is very little thunder. Maybe in the crash scene but that is about it.
So many great ideas, from the black spheres, to compressors, even the creatures on the Jovian moon are not fleshed out.
There are too many long passages giving mind numbing details about minor aspects of Jovian moons and other solar bodies.
The action and adventure that made the first two such a rollicking ride are missing. The new character is far less interesting and even the original ones are played down.
It's obvious that there is a fourth book planned but I will probably not be along for the ride.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By James D. DeWitt VINE VOICE on May 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover
John Varley continues to channel Robert Heinlein, explore the implications of the "bubble" technology introduced in "Red Thunder," and follow the adventures of succeeding generations of the Garcia-Strickland clan.

Channel Heinlein: the heroine is named Podkayne, at one point she travels on the spaceship Rodger Young, and there's enough sex and nudity to kick this off any kids' reading list. Podkayne read "Podkayne," and vows not to read any more books by the author. Cute. Big government is diabolical. And the ending is another classic Heinlein event.

"Bubble" technology: there's a bit of revisionism about the device's invention and some suggestions that the technology is at least partly created by a mental effort. New uses and weaknesses are found.

And the third generation of the Garcia-Strickland family is in the thick of it all. Along with the Broussards. Especially Podkayne, who is a singer, a member of the Martian space navy's entertainment troupe. But on a trip to Europa, a Galilean moon of Jupiter, everything changes.

Alien life is a long-standing trope in science fiction. Will we recognize that lien life if we meet it? If that alien life lives in geologic time, and not human time, will we even be able to communicate? What will happen if we can't? There's a flavor, a hint, of Varley's Gaia Trilogy here.

Some of Varley's premises are a bit of a reach. And poor old planet earth, ravaged by the tsunami in "Red Lightning" and by global warming, gets whumped again. But it's a fun novel, if a bit slow in spots, and there is room for a couple more sequels, likely involving twin girls. I hope those hypothetical sequels can recapture the charm of the first book.

Recommended for science fiction fans.
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