Thunder and Lightning – Book 1: Red Thunder – By John Varley

Hey Jared,

I took a bit of a break last week, not from reading but the blog in general. I was finding it increasingly difficult to just sit down and write a review so I figured I wouldn’t…..for a week. It also let me get a bit ahead again.


Title: Red Thunder
Series: Thunder and Lightning; Book 1
Author: John Varley
Genre: Science Fiction
Audience: Young Adult/Adult
ROTS Setting: CU, Modern/Near-Future
Synopsis: Seven suburban misfits are constructing a spaceship out of old tanker cars. The plan is to beat the Chinese to Mars–in under four days at three million miles an hour. It would be history in the making if it didn’t sound so insane.
Recommendation: Definitely recommended. I would suggest it for teens or older.

Lisa and I have read this book before and both enjoy it. We got through the first 3 books assuming it was a trilogy and only recently discovered there was a fourth. By now she’s reread them all and the new one too.

I enjoyed the book immensely, both the first time and this. It has a familiar feel to it, something that you, Jared, and I might come up with. Set in the near future it’s fairly similar to current society but with enough advances and changes to make it unique. Follow that with the introduction of a single hyper-advanced technology and we’ve got a game changer. The tech itself isn’t very important but the implication, however, is. With a source of nearly limitless thrust and power how might that change space flight?

The characters are also extremely important to the story. If anything they are probably the most important part of the book. Manuel, aka Manny, is the main character and POV. He’s got an interesting past that is mundane and relate-able while also shaping his character in a multitude of ways to create this real and textured character.

I would have to say that the other characters are nearly as pivotal as Manny because they each have their own contribution to the overall story. Basically they aren’t filler, but real people too so they are quite engaging.

I found it difficult to pin down a target audience. There are clear elements of adult and young adult genres and I think it does them both equally well. It lack much of the whining found in YA, but it also isn’t shy about the struggles of those in their late teens and early twenties. Which is why I think it resonated with me so much when I read it the first time.

The plot is good, with a decent pace and reasonable conclusion. As a standalone I think it’s very strong and from what I remember of the next two books things change fairly dramatically. Not worse, just different. However, you could easily read this one and not read the others and be perfectly happy with how it plays out.

That said, I’ll get the other books in the series eventually, but I don’t know when. If they is a great clamor for more then I’ll move up the timetable. For now I’ve got other series I want to finish first.



Thunder and Lightning – Book 1: Red Thunder – By John Varley

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