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Book Title: Red Thunder|
Date of issue: April 27th 2004
ISBN 13: 9780441011629
The author of the book: John Varley
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 966 KB
Read full description of the books Red Thunder:This homage to Heinlein revived a lot of nostalgia in me for the hopefulness about space exploration in old-fashioned science fiction. Here a group of youth in their early 20’s in Florida hook up with a washed-up, alcoholic astronaut and his autistic inventor cousin to build a rocket to Mars. I had a lot of fun with the story despite its apparent leaning toward a young adult audience.
Manny, who tells the story, helps his mother run the “Blast-Off Motel” at Cape Canaveral while he saves for college. He and his friends have just experienced the thrill of watching the launch of an American mission to Mars, which a muted by the knowledge that China will get there first. They get to know the ex-astronaut by almost running over him drunk on the beach at night, and through him his Cajun genius brother, Jubal. (If that name sounds familiar, a character of that name was the libertarian mentor of the man from.Mars, Michael, in “Stranger in a Strange Land”).
Jubal is charming and funny once they take the time to interpret his cryptic and heavily accented speech. One of Jubal’s inventions, an unbreakable Christmas tree bubble, turns out to tap energy from another dimension to squeeze its contents down to any size. With a bit of fiddling, it can be adapted into a propulsive system, one that on a large scale can be harnessed to power a rocket. The idea is born to beat the Chinese to Mars. An extra motivation is to lend aid to the Americans, who are using a technology Jubal infers to be dangerous (and a key card to play when it comes to the young folks persuading their families to let them take the journey).
Once you let slide the fanciful premise of Jubal’s “Squeezer” (really no worse than wormholes), everything else that follows with the project is quite pragmatic and realistic. Manny and his friend Dak have a lot of electrical and computer savvy, and Manny’s girlfriend has project management skills. It was cool to experience their teamwork under pressure. The main structure of the ship design involved welding a bunch of railroad cars into a frame and putting hatches on them, work suited for members of Jubal’s extended family. The making a Mars rover out of a Dodge pickup was also a fun element to the tale.
I was led to accept the amazing prospect that steady acceleration at one g could win the race, despite starting out a few months after the other ships (in a relatively short time you can exceed a million mph). The actual flight, the safe landing, and saving the Americans was almost anticlimactic after the pleasures of the planning and building phases. The old astronaut pulling off remarkable feats of piloting was a bit too perfect to thrill me.
Varley is known for is mind-blowing trilogy in the late 70’s and early 80’s which featured humans exploring a sentient hollow world (“Titan”, “Wizard”, and “Demon”). He won the Hugo and Nebula Awards for the moving novella, “Persistence of Vision”, which about a man’s captivation with a society formed by deaf and blind people who communicate by touch. That one sort of broke the mold on what could be legitimately embraced as “science fiction.” His “Steel Beach” (1992), which nails well the plausible social impact of successful nanotechnology, was another novel in lofty league with his early work. A couple of other short novels I read of his limited body of work were not quite as good, which is the level of rating I put this one.
If you do take on this quick entertaining read, you are in a good position to follow through with its successor, “Red Lightning”, which was 5-star fun for me as a take on a Mars colony at odds with a decaying Earth society (shades of Heinlein’s “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”). I have the third in the series, “Rolling Thunder” to look forward to (as well as his “Golden Globe”, which features a travelling troupe of Shakespearean actors in a far future--possibly a minor source of inspiration for this season’s “Station Eleven”).
Read information about the authorFull name: John Herbert Varley.
John Varley was born in Austin, Texas. He grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, moved to Port Arthur in 1957, and graduated from Nederland High School. He went to Michigan State University.
He has written several novels and numerous short stories.He has received both the Hugo and Nebula awards.
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