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Red Lightning by John Varley
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Red Lightning (2006)

by John Varley

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The first half of this sequel to Red Thunder was so good, that I said "OK, no matter what happens in the second half, this is at least 3 stars." The second half did not live up to the first. It wasn't bad, just predictable. It's not surprising that Varley's postscript focus on just the first half. So what happens in the book? This is Red Thunder, the Next Generation. The offspring of the heroes of that first over-packed novel live on Mars, and have a pretty good life, until something moving at near-light speed slams into Earth, causing a tsunami that devastates many coastal regions, in particular, much of the East Coast of the United States, including Florida, where Granny lives. Countless space operas have included similar events, using statistics meant to convey impact through large numbers. Yawn. Varley does just the opposite. He moves in close. The family heads to Earth to rescue Granny if possible, or at least find closure. On Earth, they reunite with ex-astronaut Travis Broussard, who conveniently has access to a DUKW, those amphibious wartime vehicles that are still popular at watery tourist areas from Florida to Wisconsin. Their journey into the heart of the disaster zone is what makes this book worth the read. The details of what they see feels right. Their emotions -- and lack of emotions -- feel right. The people they meet feel real. The disaster may be tiny in the scale of the solar system, but it's large in the book. It makes sense how it affects the characters, and the governments of Earth in the second half of the book. That second half though is just average SF. It's back to Mars, which is soon invaded by Earth, and things go off on a straightforward adventure trajectory from that point on, with the magical Squeezer technology becoming even more magical. It's a passable time-filler that covers millions of miles of space, but nothing compared to the preceding journey of maybe 100 miles to one small beach area.

Highly recommended, but feel free to skim after the story returns to Mars. ( )
  ChrisRiesbeck | Nov 28, 2016 |
I raced through this book but found it decreasingly interesting. This is, in fact, my least favorite Varley yet. Although it was published this year, it also reads as the most "old school" scifi of all his books. As in many Heinlein or other Grand Master books, his characters spend most of their time either explaining physics to each other or excitedly discussing what's wrong with the political landscape. In either case, the characters themselves are mere mouthpieces for the author. The main character, like many other Grand Master main characters, is smart and self-deprecating, but his relationship with a beautiful, flexible blonde with few inhibitions isn't written believably. Believability is a big problem for this book--I just didn't buy the societies or characters Varley created. Superficially interesting, they were all alike and all very artificial.

At the beginning of the book, I was hooked. I wanted to know more about Ray's adventures as a hotelier on Mars (check out Kage Baker's "Empress of Mars" (http://www.asimovs.com/_issue_0406/empressofmars.shtml) for a better read) and I was invested in the disaster relief efforts on Earth. After they returned to Mars, however, the book's weaknesses (and the fact that Varley clearly didn't have much else to say) came to the fore. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
Mars's autonomy is threatened in a story that borrows some elements from the US's response to 9/11. The second book in the sequence, following [b:Red Thunder|48682|Red Thunder (Red Thunder, #1)|John Varley|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1309206903s/48682.jpg|47625]. Similar to Heinlein's late juvenile and transitional novels in scope and tone (with more, though mostly not shown, sex, drugs, and swearing, and a lot more liberalism). It's easy to see some of the themes Varley returned to in [b:Slow Apocalypse|13542400|Slow Apocalypse|John Varley|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1345756315s/13542400.jpg|19106689]. There's some hard science, though it's not the focus even when it's important to the plot. The emotional centers of the book are interpersonal and societal.

I knew immediately what was in the box, but not quite how it had been managed. ( )
  OshoOsho | Mar 30, 2013 |
Fun read from start to finish. ( )
  AdorableArlene | Jan 24, 2010 |
LIKED
  BryanNash | Nov 17, 2009 |
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This book is dedicated to the memory of
Don and Mary Stilwell,
and to Jim, John, Jane, Joe, Janice, and Jerry.
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Mars sucks.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0441014887, Mass Market Paperback)

The son of one of the first men to fly to Mars and back, Ray Garcia-Strickland is now a disgruntled Martian, tired of the Red Planet's overdevelopment and the gravity-dependent tourist Earthies. But that doesn't stop him from fearing the worst when Earth is struck by an unknown object, causing a massive tsunami. Living high on his father's glory was okay, but now Ray must literally come down to Earth-and solve one of its greatest mysteries.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:14 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

The son of one of the first men to fly to Mars and back, Ray Garcia- Strickland, is now a disgruntled Martian, tired of the Red Planet's overdevelopment and the gravity dependent tourist Earthies. But that doesn't stop him from fearing the worst when Earth is struck by an unknown object, causing a massive tsunami. Living high on his father's glory was okay, but now Ray must literally come down to Earth-and solve one of its greatest mysteries.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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