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3.8 out of 5 stars
Rolling Thunder
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
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
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
on April 15, 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
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover
NOTE: Closer to 3.5 stars.

I am really hoping that John Varley's best writing is not behind him, as he is by far my favorite author. There are only three or four writers who I will read more than once, and Varley tops that list (though not with this trilogy).

To be blunt, I thought the entire trilogy was "good." I liked it. The stories and characters - especially Jubal and Travis - are interesting.

That being said, it isn't nearly as good as his past works such as Demon, Steel Beach, The Golden Globe, The Ophiuchi (sp?) Hotline and Millenium. Those books were nothing short of amazing. Every line seemed carefully crafted to evoke and emotional response. The stories were deep and meaningful. The characters came alive. Frequently, he made me laugh my ass off.

This trilogy didn't do that nearly so much for me.

I had heard somewhere that he might do another story in the world of Steel Beach / Golden Globe. That would be awesome, if he can recapture that same style of writing again.

Regardless of what John writes, I will read it, because it is still very good.

So, John, if you are reading this, please know that I am still one of your biggest fans.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on May 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I really liked the first two volumes in this series. I almost always finish books but I didn't finish this one. It's slow and the heroine is really annoying. I also didn't like the author lecturing on current political issues. I read SF to get away from those...

Varley writes great short stories, I'd recommend his collections without hesitation. The original Red Thunder was refreshing. This installment is just weak.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 13, 2014
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This is the third book in Varley's "Thunder & Lightning" series - the others being "Red Thunder" and "Red Lightning", and it continues the theme of following the clan Garcia/Strickland/Redmond; as with "Red Lightning", this is the story of the next generation of the clan.

Everybody says that the "T&L" series are a lot like the Heinlein juveniles, such as "Red Planet" or "Podkayne of Mars", and it's even more apparent in this book - the lead character is even named Podkayne, and there are plenty of other Heinlein references scattered throughout. However, the characters are more 'adult' than anything in Heinlein's juveniles, and, typical Varley, there's plenty of sex and nudity... though it's nowhere near as descriptive or involved as "Steel Beach" or his "Gaean Trilogy". Still, there's enough sex and brutal violence in it that this is definitely not a book for kids. Varley does his usual with Earth, trashing it.

Each book in the series has gotten a little darker and more murderous, and this is no different - but at the same time, this is the 'lightest' book in the series (so far), as it seems to brush over or alter previous plot points from the other books, and there are plot points in this book that just seem to disappear, with no effort to resolve them. Podkayne isn't quite the attention grabber that previous characters have been, and most of the time she just seems to mindlessly go with the flow - no questioning anything, no real serious thought, no real attempts to control her own life.

It is readable, and interesting enough, and with the fourth book in the series due out in August 2014, I suppose you need to get this one as well - especially as the fourth one seems to start almost exactly where this one ends, rather than skipping ahead 20 years as the previous ones have.

One thing to note: this is the second copy of this book that I have bought... but only because the first one I got (paperback, picked up at a yard sale) was missing almost 50 pages (281-328), and after the story ended pages 329-376 are reprinted. Probably a once-only error, but...
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 15, 2008
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I have now finished reading the story of the Garcia-Strickland family.

And it was pretty good. Not great, however.

I liked the twist abouth how this generation of Garcias ended up in a space career, but I sometimes wonder at the likelihood of such a person being able to accomplish so much in such a major crisis.

IOW, this book stamped "finished" to the storyline, but left me somewhat unsatisfied. Red Thunder was the kind of book which grabbed the reader by the throat and refused to let go until the reader reached the last page. Red Lightning, while less aggressive, carried on the storyline and clearly was a logical extension of what happened in RT.

Rolling Thunder, however...

Don't get me wrong. John Varley is an excellent writer. And his ability to create believable characters and realistic dialog are well-honed. By and large, his plot carried itself well. It's just that things were proceeding along right up until... And it's that "until" which, in my opinion, doomed Rolling Thunder to 'decent' and 'adequate' status rather than 'superb' and 'excellent conclusion'. He chose at one point to have a "character" - if you can call an alien life form which no one can communicate with "character" - do something which totally changes the tone of the book from space adventure to "end-of-humanity" suspense. It would be fine if there were a Bruce Willis character, who, with his team of plucky oil-rig workers, came out and put paid to the threat, but Varley let the E-O-H crisis continue unabated.

I'm not saying that all crises in real life end on a happy note, but given the general upbeat, we can solve this if we put our minds to it, approach of books one and two, the "we're gonna slink off with our tails between our legs" finish simply didn't end the series right.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 29, 2008
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I wondered at first if this were going to be one of those rambling novels in which the author comes up with excuses for a character from the future to be intimately familiar with popular art and music that dear to someone born ca. 1950. The plot takes an awfully long to get moving, but it does get there. This is a fond tribute to many of the lesser-known Heinlein novels, especially the juvenilia, my favorites. Not Varley's best -- try "Millennium," or even better, his faultless short story, "Press Enter," if you can find it -- but still a considerable cut above any other science fiction you're likely to stumble on.
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on April 29, 2015
Format: Mass Market Paperback
John Varley has written another endearing book. This is a worthy addition to the two previous books in the series. This time the book centers around Podkane, who is the next generation of the the heroes in the first two books. Pokane is nineteen and is serving her mandatory term in the Martian Armed Forces.

After putting in about 6 months on Earth, the Mars-born Podkane is assigned to Europa. She is assigned to the Entertainment section of the Martian Armed Services. She forms a band and and tours the bases in Jovian system.

All the main characters from the first two books are back and are living on a thriving Mars. The book is written in the first person and the writing is superb. The ending of the book is unexpected and paves the way for future sequels.

Podkane is of course named by her parents after a heroine of a Heinlein juvenile. In the last chapter of the book Varley cleverly sneaks in the names of many Heinlein juvenile books.
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