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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
John Varley, the Hugo and Nebula Awardwinning author of classics like The Ophiuchi Hotline and the Gaean trilogy (Titan, Wizard, and Demon) has released his first novel in more than five years. Red Thunder is Varley at his very best, mixing complex hard science fiction themes with masterful characterization of risk-taking outsiders so common in Varley stories.
It is the near future, and a manned Chinese spaceship is on its way to Mars. An American ship is also headed to the red planet, but the Chinese have a big head start and in all likelihood will be the first humans to walk on the planet's surface. When four young misfits almost kill a washed-out ex-astronaut lying on a Florida beach in the middle of the night while four-wheeling in their tricked-out truck, a strange friendship blossoms. After the young adults meet the ex-astronaut's semiautistic/genius cousin Jubal (who has discovered a revolutionary new power source), a crazy plan is hatched to build a spaceship out of old tanker cars, fly it to Mars, and beat the Chinese! They call the ship "Red Thunder," and with Jubal's new power source ("Squeeze Drive") and a lot of American gumption, this ill-matched group of dreamers just might be able to do it…
Fast-paced, cerebral, sensual, and filled with Varley's unique wit, Red Thunder is reminiscent of Robert Heinlein's The Number of the Beast -- wicked and wondrous science fiction from a master of the genre. Paul Goat Allen