Sequel to Red Thunder
by John Varley
I'd forgotten how much fun good, old-fashioned space opera can be until I picked up Red
Lightning. This is not the book for people who prefer their SF heavy on the science,
all detailed explanations of new technologies and the theories behind them. It's pure SF
adventure, with an appealing cast of sometimes larger than life characters, echoes of modern
world events including September 11th and the Indian Ocean tsunami, and a fast-paced story
that kept me thoroughly engaged to the end. Technology is important, but the story more so.
Ray (don't call him Ramon) Garcia-Strickland is a good guy, 17 year old who may have been
born on Earth, but his life -from his low-G 6'6" height to his contempt for Earthie tourists-
reflects his having lived on Mars since age 5. Still, when an object large enough to generate
a 100 foot high tsunami falls into the Atlantic Ocean, Ray's family and others rush back
to earth to check on friends and family living in the danger zones. Bad as the images were,
they don't begin to touch the reality of the physical, economic, political and social devastation.
Devastation that follows them back to Mars when invaders from Earth appear there a few months
later, attacking the whole planet, but focusing on Ray and those who traveled with him to
Earth. It's soon clear what they're after, but not so clear exactly who the invaders are and
what is to be done about them. To survive, Ray is going to have to figure out what really
happened on Earth and what that means for the future of friends, family, and Mars itself.
Comparisons are going to get made to Heinlein and they're not out of line. That's not
wholly a bad thing, as Heinlein wrote some great, rip-roaring space adventures, while the
individual responsibility socio-political agenda doesn't get in the way of the story here.
I really enjoyed this, for the story, but also for amusement over details such as constitution
writing wikipedia style or which brand names today were selected to become embedded in the
culture tomorrow. Recommended.
April 4, 2006|
NOTE: Some swearing, graphic descriptions. Nebula and Hugo award winning author|