Red Thunder (Thunder and Lightning, #1)
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Red Thunder (Thunder and Lightning #1)

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  1,199 ratings  ·  106 reviews
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.
Paperback, 411 pages
Published April 27th 2004 by Ace (first published 2003)
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People have been saying for years that Varley is the new Heinlein. Apparently he's started to take this seriously, since all his books after "Golden Globe" are written in a kind of Junior Heinlein style. Heinlein's okay, I guess, but you know who I like better? John Varley. Wonder what ever happened to him...
John Hood
"Given that the basic idea is crazy, it's sound workmanship." One of his characters says that about a cobbled-together spacecraft, but it also applies to John Varley's novels.

The guy who wrote the Titan trilogy is back again with a tale of south Florida in the near future, and eight people for whom the best of life has passed them by. But don't count them out yet.

An alcoholic astronaut, his super-genius cousin, and six college rejects accidentally invent a source of almost limitless power (OK so...more
This book was fabulous. It took an unbelivable premise, made it belivable and had a rolicking good time doing it.

I saw it in the school library, and picked it up off the shelf. I read the cover flap, and said, well, it'll be good for a laugh. But boy, was I wrong! It was much better than I expected.

Despite the rather lofty science fiction concept, the book is remakably human, focusing on the characters and their problems.

This was the first book I've read since Deathly Hallows that I actually f...more
Not sure what all the hype is about this book, or the comparison to Robert Heinlein. I've read a few of Heinlein's novels and they're more hard sci-fi than this one. I find Varley writes more like Orson Card personally. This book I'd say has a reading level for 14-18 year olds. There's too much humor and most of it is not funny at an adult level. I find anyway. The basic plot is good and I like the history lesson about the space program that pops up every so often but I was told most of this in...more
Ralph McEwen
Mar 20, 2012 Ralph McEwen rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Darlene Milner, Cheryl Anderson, Yve and most everybody else
A truly enjoyable tale. I am glad that I picked up this book when I didn't have time to read it in one go. I got to be in the story for about two weeks. The characters are fun and the adventure is engaging. There is very little “bad” language, since one of the main characters reacts very poorly to it. I recommend this book to all.
This was a most enjoyable read : the story, the SF, the characters, it hit a lot of my buttons. It's Varley doing Robert Heinlein-at his best, in his '50s "juveniles." It's about kids building their own spaceship to go on a trip to Mars. Varley makes the whole thing plausible as well as great fun. Written in 2003, it's taking place in that year's near future (but they're still using film cameras ). In this alternate timeline, the Chinese are racing to be the first on Mars--but four Florida kids...more
Richard Penn
Varley here is explicitly invoking the spirit of early sci-fi, reviving the dream of space exploration, and tipping a hat to his favourite authors. He does so successfully and with style. Modern readers may find his characters lack the cynicism and street-smarts of contemporary yoof. From my perspective, I have no problem with that, and find the characters charming and believable. The unfortunate part is that (view spoiler)...more
This felt a lot like reading early Heinlein. That's a complement and I generally enjoyed the story. Varley spins a good yarn.
Steven Cole
I really, really enjoyed this book. In much the same style as Heinlein did in the mid 20th century, Varley has generated a tale of young people doing amazing things. It's a celebration of American-style innovation and risk-taking, of youth, and of underdogs, with a slight anti-government thread woven through. I loved the characters, I loved the plot, and I loved the feeling I was left with when the book was done.

You could complain that these kids had everything go right. They tried things that w...more
Decepcionante, muy decepcionante novela de John Varley. Hay algunos momentos en que resulta entretenida, pero poco más.

En un futuro cercano, Manny García, su amigo Dak y sus respectivas novias, tropiezan, literalmente, con el ex astronauta Travis Broussard, lo que se convertirá en un punto de inflexión en sus vidas. China y EE.UU. han mandado sendas misiones a Marte y probablemente sean los chinos los primeros en pisar el planeta rojo. Y claro, esto no puede ser, faltaría más, los americanos han...more
James E.
Four young adults in Daytona, FL nearly run over a drunk ex-astronaut as he laid in the surf at night on the beach to see his ex wife launch on a mission to Mars (wow, is that a run-on?). What follows is a fun and enjoyable read.
The cousin of the the drunk is a brain damaged genius that has invented a machine that he intends to market as a game of sorts. It is soon discovered that what he has invented will change the course of humanity.
This book is a fun read with believable characters and high...more
Greg Zink
I wanted a mindless sci-fi book I could breeze through while traveling recently, and this sounded like it would fit the bill. In that regard it was very average; enough happened that I wasn't totally bored but it wasn't ever interesting or unpredictable enough that I was excited to see what was to come. I wasn't irked that I spent the time to read it but I don't think I'll need to read more by this author.

The plot is simple, straightforward, and all explained within the first few chapters of the...more
This was okay, but I found myself wanting to put it down and not pick it back up. Premise of the story is a group of kids (Alica, Dak, Kelly and Manny) find a washed up drunken guy (literally - they drove over him on the beach) and over the subsequent days they discover he is a astronaut who's seen better days. Travis is living with his cousin, Jubal, who happens to be a genius and would have moved on to lofty achievements if his father hadn't smashed his head smashed.

Meanwhile, the Chinese are...more
Simon Mcleish
This review first appeared on my blog here.

Heinlein's science fiction novels were the introduction which many fans had to the genre for a long time, and his stories for young teens in particular have been hugely influential, whether loved or hated. When writing for younger readers, many science fiction authors have struggled to throw off the need to copy his self-reliant, competent, science-obsessed teenage boys who succeed where adult professionals could not. They are clearly very appealing to...more
Varley's been one of my favorite authors for many, many years. Hadn't seen anything new from him in a long time until I ran across this a couple years back at a discount book store. So it's been on a shelf a bit...

He doesn't disappoint here in his ability to write an entertaining story with interesting characters. There were a couple things that kept me from giving this four stars, I wish I could do three and a half.

First, there are a couple characters that don't really get developed. It's not c...more
Stephen Gallup
Way, way back when I was getting settled into my first job, a coworker there introduced me to what were then important new names in sci-fi. I of course had read the giants like Heinlein and Bradbury (had even exchanged letters with Bradbury once), but this was the first I'd heard of Philip José Farmer, Harlan Ellison, and John Varley. Varley in particular I liked because of the wonderful imagination at play in his collection The Persistence of Vision.

Sci-fi is a genre I read only now and then, a...more
Faith Justice
This the review I did for Strange Horizons magazine in 2003

Multiple Hugo and Nebula award winner John Varley's first novel of the new century harks back to an earlier era. Red Thunder is an homage to Heinlein's juveniles, but it also borrows the "can do" attitude of young folks from such classics as the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and the Andy Hardy movies. But instead of "let's put on a show in the barn," it's "let's build a spaceship in the warehouse." What's to stop them? Men-in-black government...more
Kathy Davie
First in the Red young adult science fiction series set in a futuristic Florida.

The Story
We start with the four best friends, Manny, Kelly, Dak, and Alicia watching the Mars-bound VentureStar rocket take off with its Ares-Seven crew. It's a special event for the four as both Manny and Dak dream about going into space. This summer they are, okay, so they're trying to, studying hard to pass their online college courses. Online because neither of them can afford to go to a real college. But that n...more
In the near future, there's another space race on - will America or China be the first to get to Mars? - and in the small towns of Florida around Cape Canaveral, everything old is new again. Everything except for the Apollo-era Blast-Off Motel, which 20-year old Manny helps his mom and Aunt Maria try to keep in working order. Manny is desperate to get into space, but with a degree from his sub-standard high school, he can't even get into college. So he fixes toilets and takes free internet math...more
Christopher McKitterick
I loved this so much! Rollicking adventure with ideas and themes to keep everyone involved, characters we really care about. It feels like a great Heinlein juvenile that could never have been published in Heinlein's day. One of my favorite books for a long time. I knew while reading it that some people might not feel it is as award-worthy as other, perhaps more-literary, novels, but I can't help but believe books such as this are vital to the health of SF.

The plot is pretty straightforward: Fou...more
For some odd reason I had never read Varley, an author who was first published in 1977, before I picked up this book. After this experience, I realized my mistake. Red Thunder makes some rather preposterous assumptions in order to underpin a story. A decade or two from now, two lower class Florida youngsters dream of going to space. They and their girlfriends accidentally run into (actually run over) an ex astronaut who has fallen from grace. Said ex astronaut has a quasi autistic genius cousin...more
Shortly before starting this book, I had looked through my Book Journal Blog here and wondered when, exactly was the last time i read a really good book that was really engaging and fun to read. The answer is that it has been much, much too long. I have read many good books, but nothing that has drawn me back so strongly that we consider it a book that you "can't put down."

This is one of those books.

John Varley has long been a favorite of mine, ever since I read his Ophiuchi Hotline when I was i...more
I believe that the best science fiction doesn't get bogged down in the science part. If you try too hard to make your science believable, your readers will try harder to disbelieve it. The thing about Ringworld was that Larry Niven constructed a very interesting, but potentially flawed, so much that he was compelled to write the sequel, Ringworld Engineers, to try to rebut some of the criticism he received.
In Red Thunder, there is little science to defend, as John Varley makes up a device that...more
One of the things I’ve been doing over the last year or so is re-reading old Robert A. Heinlein. It’s been an interesting experience, some of it not always good, others being wonderful.

It’s partly because of that that I’ve had this copy of Red Thunder around Hobbit Towers for a while and actually not got to reading it. As you might expect from a five-time Nebula and Hugo Award winner, John Varley is a wonderful prose writer, one of those, like Heinlein, whose deceptively smooth style just keeps...more
Jan 25, 2008 Tracey rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: science fiction fans looking for a semi-light, adventure-type story
I picked up a paperback copy of Red Thunder in September & finally pulled it off Mount ToBeRead.

Manny and Dak, two Florida twenty-somethings trying to figure out what to do with their lives, happen across Travis Broussard, an ex-astronaut and current alcoholic. Turns out his brother, Jubal, is an eccentric genius who inadvertently comes up with a source for nearly free power. He also believes that Aries Seven, a US spaceship headed towards Mars, is in terrible danger. Did I mention that the...more
SF. Four twenty-year-olds befriend and reform former astronaut and current drunk Travis Broussard, and with the help of his cousin Jubal, a disabled Cajun genius who speaks entirely in dialect, they build a spaceship out of spare parts in a couple of months and launch for Mars simply to get there before the Chinese do.

Despite the modern conveniences, this book reads like it was written in the 1940s, not the 2000s. The women seem independent, but are mostly just around to support and nurture the...more
Because Red Thunder came so highly recommended, I tried very hard to get through it. My bookmark is at Chapter 23, page 250 of 411 pages, but after repeated attempts to get rolling and finally not touching the book for weeks, I am ready to admit that I give up.

The big concept of the story is interesting enough: a bunch of misfit teenagers with dreams of space meet up with an outcast ex-NASA astronaut and his idiot savant cousin and they wind up deciding to build and launch a secret mission to Ma...more
Clayton Yuen
Scifi classic novels are usually about the space flight or the awesome space ship or a far away conflict. Well, Red Thunder is about people. In fact, it is about the relationship of 4 teen friends and how they happen across an unusual Cajun family, the development of their friendship. Interlaced within all the drama and talk is an adventure to Mars!

Cousin Jubal creates a "bubble" that harnesses the power if infinite power. After playing with this bubble, they all realize its unusual feature, can...more
Neil Fein
Not his best, but far from his worst. Many other reviews point out that Varley is in Heinlein mode in this novel, and there's some truth in this. Nonetheless, I was reminded of Spider Robinson more than Heinlein (Robinson was heavily influenced by Heinlein, make your own inferences).
I imagine this was a conscious choice on Varley's part, as he has such a strong, individual narrative voice of his own. ("The Golden Globe", his last book, was more than a little derivitave of the novel before it, ev...more
The first 1/3 of this book was character setup--and seemed to have no direction.

The second 1/3 of this book reminded me of the Sci Fi stories I wrote in fourth grade. Kids got to junk yard, build spaceship, and then the adventure began. Although this book didn't have them going to a junk year, it felt about as believable.

The last 1/3 of this book was a reasonably good tale, albeit still a lot unbelievable.

He wrapped everything up, one person at a time (basically) in a couple paragraphs each. Def...more
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Full name: John Herbert Varley
More about John Varley...
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