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Friday, July 2, 2021

Rolling Thunder (Thunder and Lightning, #3)Rolling Thunder by John Varley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First off, the book is a great and delicious tribute to Heinlein -- but updated. That's true for all the books in this series. He outright admits it and names his character Podkayne (as in Heinlein's Podkayne of Mars. But don't get this mistaken for some fan fiction. Varley is a fantastic writer.

He tributes mostly to Heinlein's Juveniles (YA) but there are some great digressions that give the heave-ho to some of Heinlein's later social commentaries, be it nudity taboos or dealing with unexpected windfalls or even music appreciation. Light stuff. Fun stuff.

But since this is also a cool light-hearted and light-touched adventure, we get to head all over the solar system and get into trouble and play music and eventually find ourselves in a VERY different kind of book from her grandfather's little adventure or her father's role in the martian revolution. Podkayne is her own woman. 6'4" and intimidating, enjoying life and love, and generally not giving a damn.

The whole thing gets kinda wild in scope and I loved it.

But here's a problem I ran into. Just like the first book had come out in '03 and this one came out in '08, I kept reading them, going, HEY! I know this stuff. Even the same names. Some of the same situations. Even the same tech described in the same way.

I was thinking, a lot, about the James S.A. Corey writing duo. The ship efficiency side-story. The politics on Earth, the conflict between Earth and Mars (not precisely unique, of course, but these very close details keep cropping up) all the way to how Podkayne's personal spacecraft was called the Rocinante. And there's a lot more, too. But here's the problem: when there are SO many things that overlap like this, even down to the name of the ship, I have to point out that this book came out three years before Leviathan Wakes.

The tone between both is very different, of course, but it's like looking at the difference between Moorcock's Elric series and The Witcher. Once you see just HOW MUCH is the same between them, it's hard to un-see.

Varley's a great writer that ought to be a LOT better known. He's entirely honest, too, and a great read. I just find it really hard to understand why he's not uber-popular. He's up there with some of the best SF and he really knows his stuff. Lovingly, even.


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