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Red Lightning Hardcover – 4 Apr 2006


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 330 pages
  • Publisher: Ace Books; 1 edition (4 April 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0441013643
  • ISBN-13: 978-0441013647
  • Product Dimensions: 23.5 x 16.2 x 2.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,702,706 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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MARS SUCKS. Read the first page
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Shepherd on 14 Sep 2009
Format: Mass Market Paperback
While this book is a nominal sequel to Red Thunder (and that book really should be read before tackling this one), it can stand on its own. Like Red Thunder, this book is crafted in the Heinlein coming-of-age mold, and those who enjoy those Heinlein works will find much to satisfy them here.

Our Martian hero, seventeen year-old Ray Garcia-Strickland, is a pretty typical teenager, even if his parents are famous (their story is told in Red Thunder). School, girls, taking trips up to Phobos, and trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life occupy most of his attention But when a mysterious object smacks into the Atlantic Ocean traveling at light speed, his focus, and that of all his family, turns to finding out the status of his grandmother, a hotel proprietress in Florida, sure to be hit by the ensuing tsunami. The next hundred pages or so are taken up with the family's trip to Earth and their adventures in a badly damaged Florida once they arrive. This section allows Varley to not only show the current economic and technological background of his future, but to make some telling comments on governments, bureaucracies, privacy rights, and the reactions of different types of people to sudden disaster. He paints a pretty stark picture of American society, a society clearly based on the very visible trends of today where the right to privacy and ability to do as you wish is being swallowed by `security' and government intrusion into every facet of life. He also has one scene straight out of the Heinlein code book, when Ray and his sister revolt against their parent's commands and start making their own decisions.

When the family returns to Mars, though, a whole new layer of story unfolds, where Mars is attacked and the family taken prisoner and very roughly interrogated.
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful By M. A. Ramos on 7 Nov 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is my first book by John Varley and I was not impressed. In this book an unidentified object crashes into Earth causing a devastating tsunami. The main character is a seventeen-year-old Mars resident named Ray Garcia-Strickland surveys the damage, unaware the disaster may have been caused by his uncle's dangerous time-altering invention. A couple of things of note, this book is part of a sequel, it contains some descriptions of sex and has some strong language.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 30 reviews
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
A Feeble Sequel 15 Sep 2006
By James D. DeWitt - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
In 1956, a movie reviewer described John Wayne cast as Ghengis Khan in "The Conqueror" as "willing suspension of disbelief hung by the neck until dead, dead, dead." While all science fiction requires the willing suspension of disbelief, Varley comes close of violating the Ghengis Khan principle here.

Ray, the 17-year old son of his famous father, the protagonist of Varley's earlier "Red Thunder," is a bored Mars teenager. But when a mysterious object strikes the North Atlantic, creating a gigantic tsunami that obliterates coastal Florida, he is as anxious as the rest of his family to find out what happened to his grandmother and the family's Florida resort. Jubal, the inventor of the "Squeezer"" used as the rocket drive featured in the earlier "Red Thunder," disappears as well, and the chaos Ray found on the Atlantic seaboard follows Ray and his family back to Mars.

This is not John Varley's best story. The "Squeezer" from "Red Thunder" was a MacGuffin, and despite some brief attempts at explication, remains a MacGuffin here. The plot is really two somewhat related stories: Ray's adventures on Earth, following the tsunami, and Ray's adventures on Mars and in space, following Jubal's disappearance. The stories are linked by chronology and a by the reason behind Jubal's disappearance. That link is so obvious that only the naïve Jubal can be surprised in this post-9/11 world: any technology, no matter how useful, can be used as a terrorist weapon.

This novel is less obviously derivative to Heinlein than was "Red Thunder," but there are still elements of "Moon Is a Harsh Mistress" and, heaven help us, "Friday." Unlike some other reviewers, I found Varley's description of the United States before and after the tsunami all too plausible. The events on Mars were even likely. But I'm not sure that the cheerful opportunism on Varley's Mars - a close cousin to Heinlein's lunar government - is preferable as a government or an economy.

The plot resolution solution is clever and consistent with the original premises of the Squeezer. But the reaction of Earth is improbable. And, sadly, it involves just another kind of terrorism as well, although one that causes no loss of life. Is it okay to terrorize absolutely everyone on Earth if it makes Earth leave Mars alone? Do the ends justify the means?

It all leaves room for another sequel, but perhaps there shouldn't be.

Bottom line: Okay but not great. Recommended to Varley fans.
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Mushy in the Middle 11 April 2006
By Erik Nodacker - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I was suprised to find myself becoming bored by a John Varley book! But in the middle of Red Lightning I was wondering if it would get good again. The whole episode of the family slogging through the Florida distaster area seemed tacked on (which Varley essentially admits to in his afterword) and worse doesn't advance the plot! The story comes to a screeching halt for 120 pages to establish the minor point that Ray's grandmother is all right. Varley does an excellent job describing what a tsunami would do to Florida and the rest of the United States, but all this could have been described without the family leaving Mars. The actual story doesn't resume until page 157 and doesn't really get going until Mars is invaded. Once the story is underway again it is the usual Varley page turner, enjoyable and smartly written. I'll read it again but skip a huge chunk unless I have trouble sleeping.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
A Fun Ride and a Nasty Warning 25 May 2006
By Patrick Shepherd - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
While this book is a nominal sequel to Red Thunder (and that book really should be read before tackling this one), it can stand on its own. Like Red Thunder, this book is crafted in the Heinlein coming-of-age mold, and those who enjoy those Heinlein works will find much to satisfy them here.

Our Martian hero, seventeen year-old Ray Garcia-Strickland, is a pretty typical teenager, even if his parents are famous (their story is told in Red Thunder). School, girls, taking trips up to Phobos, and trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life occupy most of his attention But when a mysterious object smacks into the Atlantic Ocean traveling at light speed, his focus, and that of all his family, turns to finding out the status of his grandmother, a hotel proprietress in Florida, sure to be hit by the ensuing tsunami. The next hundred pages or so are taken up with the family's trip to Earth and their adventures in a badly damaged Florida once they arrive. This section allows Varley to not only show the current economic and technological background of his future, but to make some telling comments on governments, bureaucracies, privacy rights, and the reactions of different types of people to sudden disaster. He paints a pretty stark picture of American society, a society clearly based on the very visible trends of today where the right to privacy and ability to do as you wish is being swallowed by `security' and government intrusion into every facet of life. He also has one scene straight out of the Heinlein code book, when Ray and his sister revolt against their parent's commands and start making their own decisions.

When the family returns to Mars, though, a whole new layer of story unfolds, where Mars is attacked and the family taken prisoner and very roughly interrogated. Why this happens forms the remainder of the story, where grand science meets power-hungry organizations, with the outcome dependent on the grit and determination of Ray and his family.

The technological point of departure, both for this book and Red Thunder, is the `Squeezer', which effectively allows one to get unlimited energy for nothing. This device does major damage to current known physics, which Varley acknowledges and tries to patch up a little with some techno-babble about super-string theory in this book. Unfortunately, I still think this device falls in the `unbelievable' category. But a more serious fault is the characterization of Jubal, the inventor of this device and several others that are of critical importance to this story. The portrayal of Jubal as socially inept, almost childish, while at the same time knowing enough about how people work to plan and execute his escape from his `prison', and simultaneously not being able to see that sometimes application of force is absolutely necessary, is not well done. This is in marked contrast to Varley's excellent characterization of the other major players in this work

Though realistic, Varley's description of some sexual experiences by the protagonist was, for my money, too detailed and graphic compared to the general tenor of the rest of this book, which is otherwise eminently readable by very young teenagers. While its inclusion certainly adds to the `reality' feeling of this book, I just didn't feel it was really necessary.

The adventure is great, most of the characters are great, there is some excellent social commentary and some decent philosophy, but marred somewhat by the lack of believability of the Squeezer and Jubal.

---Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Disappointing downer sequel 4 Jun 2006
By Jim Heale - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I'm a big fan of Red Thunder, the prequel to this book, in which the author ressurects the golden age juvenile feel of classic SF stories like "Rocket Ship Galileo" by Heinlein. Red Thunder updated and improved upon that particular work while maintaining the sense of wonder and can-do attitude of young patriotic men who have the opportunity to do what no one has ever done before, in the spirit of the USofA. There's even a perfectly good reason why characters use "swear" words like "dad-gum" instead of the more common street language we hear everywhere today. In short, I loved it and was perfectly fine with tolerating the convenient fantasy of the "Squeeze" drive that drives the plot and characters.

Red Lightning opens a generation later and seemed promising, possibly an update to Red Planet by Heinlein, about growing up on Mars. Unfortunately, the book quickly becomes bogged-down in a rescue mission after a terrorist attack on Earth. By the time this wraps up, the book is half over and though the characters are all well-developed, the plot is not. There's no longer the feel-good spirit of "Beating the Reds to Mars", instead, America is essentially destroyed, has become a police state, and fascism has taken its place as an army invades our hero's home on Mars and it takes a bunch of magic`from the creator of the "Squeeze" drive to make some really implausible stuff happen. The ending is not feel-good, like the last one, and instead of being inspired by classic SF adventure novels, the book seemed to be more inspired by 9/11 and the Indonesian Tsunami, which are real downers.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Lack Luster 20 July 2006
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was looking forward to this book. I enjoyed Red Thunder and expected more of the same. The problem is there doesn't appear to be any real goal in this book. In Red Thunder the goal was getting to Mars. In this book it seems we have created an amoral society that sees sex and drugs as libertine rights.

The gist is that a quarter century later, something hits the earth, genertes a Tsunami and swamps most of the North American Atlantic sea board. I won't spoil the book by saying what the object was, but after reading the explanation in context of the book, I have to say, "So What." It wasn't really relevant to the rest of the story.

This has the feel of a pieced together story and forgot to include a brain and a heart.
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