I have just finished reading John Varley’s excellent trilogy and I would recommend it highly to science fictions readers looking for something new and intelligent to read, especially fans of Robert Heinlein whose style Varley seems to emulate well. Here is my take on Rolling Thunder, and you can read my comments on the others on my books page.
As I finished the third Varley book in the Red Thunder, Red Lightening, Rolling Thunder Trilogy I was wishing there was a fourth. His writing is intelligent and his characters are complex and interesting. This one picks up with the daughter, Podkayne, of Ray from Red Lightening, and the granddaughter of Manny from Red Thunder. It follows her adventures in the Martian Navy Music Corps as she get caught up in new dangers unfolding on Europa. The comparison to Robert Heinlein is just as valid in this book as the previous. Like some of Heinlein’s works this book has large sections with very little story developments and instead just shares the thoughts and feelings of the main character while educating the reader about planets, gravity and space travel trivia. At times all the factoids can come across as the author showing off his knowledge (or research more likely) but overall it works well and when the story does pick up it goes in a major way. Also like Heinlein, Varley can’t resist a few good jabs at organized religion, making fun of the rapurists who pop up every time there is a major disaster. I also got a good chuckle out of Podkayne’s take on intelligent design while explaining why she doesn’t want to have kids with an imaginary conversation with her vagina:
ME: Babies are so cute!
MS V: Honey, you need to get a tape measure. Measure me, then measure a baby’s head. Then … you do the math
Not a pretty picture. In Homeland America there is an accepted church dogma called “intelligent design”. […] And if you need another example, tell me why a human baby should be expected to emerge from an opening that can’t accommodate a lemon without discomfort. Design maybe, but not intelligent. If that was God’s intent, then God is a dunce.
This book didn’t wrap up nice and neat at the end, as the main character even admits many stories do, but is still satisfying in it’s conclusion. There is definitely lots and lots of open doors for a next book.