Kit's Reviews > Rolling Thunder

Rolling Thunder by John Varley
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's review
Jun 27, 2008

it was ok
Read in June, 2008

I really wanted to like this book. It's unabashedly Varley's take on Podkayne of Mars, starring 18-year-old Podkayne Strickland-Garcia, granddaughter of Manny and Kelly from Red Thunder. I'm starting to wonder if there's some kind of "Curse of the Podkaynes" that turns otherwise hopeful books into bad ones.

The nearest I can come to explaining What Went Wrong is that this book reads like the first halves of three different books one after the other, all of which could have been good, none of which have anything in common with each other except that Podkayne is in them. This is just weird.

If you're going to write a novel, you don't have to introduce all your characters and plot elements in the first fifty pages, but when you do, and build them up, and make them seem important, you can't just ditch them partway through for no reason as if the readers aren't going to wonder what happened. The first time the story dumped everything but Podkayne and started over, I gave it the benefit of the doubt, thinking, "Well, now I've gotten to the main plot." But then it happened again, and the "ending" has so little to do with the beginning (or even the middle) that you could just start two-thirds of the way through the book for all that the first two-thirds have to do with it.

Apart from the narrative structure, there are some funny parts and interesting ideas, although deeper down the story suffers from some creepy social engineering concepts: the idea that building a good society is a matter of deciding who to keep out is an unfortunate staple of some sci-fi, including Heinlein's. I wish that were not one of the ideas Varley had borrowed.

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