Review: Red Thunder
Review Summary: Entertaining ‘juvenile’ science fiction.
PROS: Quick read, entertaining, likable characters.
CONS: Not really a ‘juvenile’ book, premise is totally unbelievable.
Bottom Line: Definitely worth a read, even if its not up to Varley’s standards.
Red Thunder is Varley’s tribute to Heinlein’s juvenile series of books. As a result, the story is light, quick, and is based upon one impossible technology that allows our heroes to do what they do. First, the good. Red Thunder is an easy read and stays away from using difficult literary devices or methods. The story concerns four friends who, with the help of an ex-astronaut, attempt to build a homemade spaceship and be the first people on Mars. Varley does a good job of fleshing out the characters, their inter-relationships, and in making them likable. He also brings the ‘gee whiz’ factor to the fore with the use of the propulsion system that one of the character invents. Everything is kept very light, with a few exceptions, and the story doesn’t really take off until the last half of the book, when the Red Thunder itself is being constructed, then flown. I actually read the last half in one sitting, about 3 hours. Up until that point, I was going to give this book a 3, but actually keeping me up because I can’t put the book down is worth something, right?
The bad is mostly nits, but worth 1 star off. First, this book is billed as being an homage to the Heinlein juvenile books. However, there are several quick sex scenes in this book that would make me think more than twice before allowing a young reader to read it. I would say 16 is the minimum age. There is also a short confrontation with a drug dealer, and the ex-astronaut is an alcoholic. Second, the underlying ‘science’ of the propulsion system is completely unbelievable. Granted, it allows the characters to do what the day, but it was enough to make me keep saying, “Yeah, like I believe that….”. Third, and last, the ending was way to pat and tidy, especially considering the power source being discussed. I’m not sure the solution hit upon would actually work, people being what they are.
All in all, though, I would recommend this book, especially if you want a break from meatier SF and want something light and enjoyable.
Filed under: Book Review
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