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Red Lightning (2007)

Red Lightning (2007)

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3.7 of 5 Votes: 4
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0441014887 (ISBN13: 9780441014880)

About book Red Lightning (2007)

Having reviewed the first of this series (Red Thunder) and being pretty impressed, I quickly moved on to the second of John’s books in this series.As I had hoped, this is an interesting novel with many of the pleasing attributes of the first. It is, in simple terms, Red Thunder: the Next Generation. The tale here moves on from Manny, Kelly, Dak and Travis to the teenage prodigy of Manny and Kelly. Now living on Mars and helping run Manny and Kelly’s Red Thunder Hotel, the tale is told in the first person by their son, Ramon (Ray) Garcia-Strickland.Things have moved on since the first novel. The Squeezer has now made travel across the solar system relatively easy and comparatively quick. People have spread from Earth to create a community on Mars and turn Phobos into a sports centre (for air-boarding between itself and Mars, no less.)The expansion across the system suddenly halts when something lands in the Pacific Ocean, travelling at near-light speed. The resulting tsunami obliterates the east coast of the USA. Ray and his parents travel to Earth to rescue Betty, his grandma, still living at the Blast-Off Motel in Florida. At the same time Jubal, the only person who really knows how to create and operate the Squeezer, disappears from his luxury prison on the Falkland Islands.The majority of the book deals with the journey to save Grandma (driven by Travis Broussard in a DUKW) and the rediscovery of Jubal, as well as to find the origin of the tsunami. There’s also the revolution and independence of the Martians who are suddenly placed under martial law by Earth power factions and tortured (with clear similarities to Guantanamo Bay.)However, it all (in Heinlein-esque style) ends pretty much happily ever after. As with the first novel, John writes entertainingly. Ray’s commentary is gawky, embarrassingly humorous and seriously down-played. As Ray puts it, in that wonderful reductive way writers can have (page335), ‘And that’s how I saved Mars and maybe the whole human race, and in the process kicked some of the most powerful people on Earth in the butt.’As a reader, it felt good to revisit and continue on from Red Thunder. More pleasingly (for me) Jubal is less important than previously, though he is still an important character. This means that we get less of his irritating Cajun accent, which really didn’t work for me in the previous novel, as I spent more time trying to decipher his speech in writing than enjoying the plot.More negatively, what didn’t work for me this time was a little more serious. John writes in an interesting Afterword that this book was inspired (if that is the right word) after both the events of 9/11 in 2001 and the devastation caused by the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004, though much of it had been spookily written by the time of that disaster. Poignantly, Hurricane Katrina, in September 2005, happened as this book was being finished and, like the tale told In Red Lightning, emphasised how quickly civil order could break down in sudden disasters. However, with its inspiration obvious and with its heart firmly on its sleeve, Red Lightning became for me an imperfect novel.In particular, the journey on Earth, from the Garcia-Strickland’s arrival to their rescue mission in Florida, is just too long. Whilst I can see the need to tell the tales of devastation and horror following a major tidal-wave, travelling there by the use of a DUKW amphibious vehicle just makes no sense. A journey that, based on previous journeys by the Red Lightning would take hours, or possibly a day, takes much longer. If the need to see whether relatives had survived was so urgent then I’m sure the family could’ve pulled a few strings and gained a spaceship to get there quicker, despite all the bureaucracy and zoning-off that has occurred. (That was basically what they did by building Red Thunder in the first novel.)If it was a case of helping without having to deal with bureaucracy it could’ve been done by flying in, picking up, dropping off supplies and getting out in a matter of hours. Whilst it is important to tell the tale of a government struggling to come to terms with a major disaster, this could’ve been done without having to drive through it. And they could’ve taken rescue supplies to boot. Whilst the story of devastated America was shocking, it was marred for me by being, in this instance, illogical.Overall this is still a tale told with panache. Better in some ways than Red Thunder, but less so in other aspects, it is still a great page-turner if you can cope with the odd logical lapse.

I read this because it's the SFDG book for today, April 24 2008.My expectations were low because of notes from two SFDG members; one said that we were "masochists" for reading the book, and the other said it told a less enjoyable story than Red Thunder. Thus I was a bit surprised to like this book so much ;-).One thing I like is that it's really two books that pretty much stand alone; almost exactly halfway through, it switches from being one book to being another, complete with several pages that feel like the usual authorial throat-clearing. Varley has outfoxed the Evil Publishing Industrial Complex that insists No Book Shorter Than 300 Pages May Be Published.On a slightly more serious note, one other reason I enjoyed this book so much was that it was a sharp contrast to the last several books I've read (and the one I'm currently reading). I love Varley's prose style: It's not scattered with clumsy infelicities, it doesn't wallow in lengthy pace-killing descriptions, and it doesn't celebrate clever turns of phrase for the sake of clever turns of phrase. The worst sections of this book (or these books ;-) were interesting and quick to read through, and the fastest-paced parts made me very tempted to Keep On Reading till the end, even though it was late at night after a very long day. I had to consciously decide to stop a couple of times because I didn't want to be totally exhausted the next day. Again, the last half-dozen or so books didn't give me this problem (I mostly nodded off after a dozen pages or so), so I was very pleased.Beyond the style and the pacing, was this Great Literature? No, but it's good, solid SF stunningly well executed. Varley's ridiculous physics cheats are obviously not meant to be taken seriously, and if you accept the cheats, his treatment of the look and feel of the consequences seems very plausible. There's also fun new tech: Boarding and Stereos. The latter aren't up to the carefuly thinking of Egan, Chiang, Vinge, or Stross--but that still makes them vastly superior to the darn-near everything else published in SF these days.Overall: I very much enjoyed it and am seriously considering picking up the next book, Rolling Thunder, soon.(Finished 0:36EDT)

Do You like book Red Lightning (2007)?

This actually seems to be two books in one. There is a lengthy description of the aftermath of a tsunami that hit the eastern seaboard of the United States and especially Florida. The devastation is tremendous and the story of one family that traveled through Florida is worth the reading of the book itself. The rest of the book concerns the effect of the tsunami and the fleeing of the character who was responsible for the technology that caused it on the colony on Mars. It seems that some really bad guys are in hot pursuit of the character and end up following him into the space north of the solar ecliptic. As nonviolent as he is he uses his genius to , well, "stop" the bad guys. I will let you read it to find out what "stopping" and the "stopper" are. All in all it was a very enjoyable read.
—Roger Bailey

This wasn't quite as exciting as Red Thunder, but it was still a good sequel. The author's note on the end about how he was originally writing about the tsunami striking exactly where it DID end up striking was a little scary, but like he fiction writers don't PREDICT the future, they just sometimes get lucky and have the future resemble their books.I think the part that struck me the most about this book was the thought of what our country would really do in such a disaster. And the idea of the government dropping flyers instructing people to burn all bodies they find for health reasons but to make sure to "pull out a few hairs (making sure to get the roots)" of bodies before they are burned and place them in a plastic bag and save them so that eventually DNA testing might be able to identify some of the millions of victims. Whew.
—Marsha Johnson

How many times have you read a good sex scene in a science fiction novel? Good, bad, or corny, here's one from RED LIGHTNING (note: the author is trying to be funny)."My rendezvous probe was ready for another docking maneuver, and she guided me into her own fleshy capture latches, which were amazingly strong and versatile."This post-coital moment is sort of funny."Afterward, we relaxed with a pipe of Phobos Red, reputed to be the best marijuana in the solar system. I wouldn't know; I'd never smoked anything else. It's not illegal on Mars. Some people say it will lead to hard, dangerous drugs like alcohol, but that's not been our experience on Mars."

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