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Rolling Thunder Hardcover – 4 Mar 2008
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About the Author
John Varley is the author of the Gaean Trilogy (Titan, Wizard, and Demon), Steel Beach, The Golden Globe, Red Thunder, and Mammoth. He has won both the Nebula and Hugo Awards for his work. --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Everybody says that the "T&L" series are a lot like the Heinlein juveniles, such as "Red Planet" or "Podkayne of Mars", and it's even more apparent in this book - the lead character is even named Podkayne, and there are plenty of other Heinlein references scattered throughout. However, the characters are more 'adult' than anything in Heinlein's juveniles, and, typical Varley, there's plenty of sex and nudity... though it's nowhere near as descriptive or involved as "Steel Beach" or his "Gaean Trilogy". Still, there's enough sex and brutal violence in it that this is definitely not a book for kids. Varley does his usual with Earth, trashing it.
Each book in the series has gotten a little darker and more murderous, and this is no different - but at the same time, this is the 'lightest' book in the series (so far), as it seems to brush over or alter previous plot points from the other books, and there are plot points in this book that just seem to disappear, with no effort to resolve them. Podkayne isn't quite the attention grabber that previous characters have been, and most of the time she just seems to mindlessly go with the flow - no questioning anything, no real serious thought, no real attempts to control her own life.
It is readable, and interesting enough, and with the fourth book in the series due out in August 2014, I suppose you need to get this one as well - especially as the fourth one seems to start almost exactly where this one ends, rather than skipping ahead 20 years as the previous ones have.
One thing to note: this is the second copy of this book that I have bought... but only because the first one I got (paperback, picked up at a yard sale) was missing almost 50 pages (281-328), and after the story ended pages 329-376 are reprinted. Probably a once-only error, but...
And it was pretty good. Not great, however.
I liked the twist abouth how this generation of Garcias ended up in a space career, but I sometimes wonder at the likelihood of such a person being able to accomplish so much in such a major crisis.
IOW, this book stamped "finished" to the storyline, but left me somewhat unsatisfied. Red Thunder was the kind of book which grabbed the reader by the throat and refused to let go until the reader reached the last page. Red Lightning, while less aggressive, carried on the storyline and clearly was a logical extension of what happened in RT.
Rolling Thunder, however...
Don't get me wrong. John Varley is an excellent writer. And his ability to create believable characters and realistic dialog are well-honed. By and large, his plot carried itself well. It's just that things were proceeding along right up until... And it's that "until" which, in my opinion, doomed Rolling Thunder to 'decent' and 'adequate' status rather than 'superb' and 'excellent conclusion'. He chose at one point to have a "character" - if you can call an alien life form which no one can communicate with "character" - do something which totally changes the tone of the book from space adventure to "end-of-humanity" suspense. It would be fine if there were a Bruce Willis character, who, with his team of plucky oil-rig workers, came out and put paid to the threat, but Varley let the E-O-H crisis continue unabated.
I'm not saying that all crises in real life end on a happy note, but given the general upbeat, we can solve this if we put our minds to it, approach of books one and two, the "we're gonna slink off with our tails between our legs" finish simply didn't end the series right.