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Old 06-30-2008, 02:46 AM   #1
Donnageddon
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Rolling Thunder - John Varley

I have always loved John Varley's work, and I have very much enjoyed Red Thunder and Red Lightening, but... ( you had to know a "but" was coming) I found this latest edition to be half good.

The first 40% is actually enjoyable (I speak in "%" because I read it on my beloved Kindle, and with a Kindle, you can only speak in "%"). The first approximately half is entertaining and a great tour of the Jovian System. I mean "tour" in the best and most explicit sense.

The protagonist is a Mars Navy draftee who is traveling the Jovian system as a singer in a jazz band. I really enjoyed the travelogue.

And then something really bad happens.

The bad stuff is well portrayed and well written.

Then there is the last 40% of the book.

That is boring as hell.

Old characters are altered (Jubal is rewritten in a way I approve of, but still it is not convincing) and things happen slowly. I passed through many pages just skimming, waiting for something to happen.

I almost wish the book had stopped half way through.

But I read it all. And I hope, if Varley continues the journey, his next book is more enthralling, because this one was difficult to read to the end.
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Old 06-30-2008, 06:40 AM   #2
Nate the great
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I liked Thunder, but not Lightning. I'm not going to read the third book.

I don't know if it's true, but I've heard that he wrote the series in the style of Heinlein juveniles. If so, then Mr. Varley goofed. Each Heinlein juvenile stands alone.
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Old 07-01-2008, 01:25 PM   #3
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I liked Thunder, but not Lightning. I'm not going to read the third book.

I don't know if it's true, but I've heard that he wrote the series in the style of Heinlein juveniles. If so, then Mr. Varley goofed. Each Heinlein juvenile stands alone.
Not really. Varley is attempting to write YA SF in these books, and Heinlein's juveniles largely defined the form. But the series wasn't the predominant format when RAH was writing his books. Now, it's hard to write a genre book and not have expectations that it could become a series. If a book does well, the publisher will want more of the same, because they'll sell.

If RAH were writing this sort of thing now, he'd face the same pressures.
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Old 07-01-2008, 01:33 PM   #4
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Not really. Varley is attempting to write YA SF in these books, and Heinlein's juveniles largely defined the form. But the series wasn't the predominant format when RAH was writing his books. Now, it's hard to write a genre book and not have expectations that it could become a series. If a book does well, the publisher will want more of the same, because they'll sell.

If RAH were writing this sort of thing now, he'd face the same pressures.
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And there is a good chance he would have refused. He had a dedication to the story that came before profits.

One of my copies of "Podkayne of Mars" is a paperback, and it includes both the ending he wrote as well as the ending that was originally published. Did you know that he killed off Podkayne?

The book also has a personal letter in which he explains why he killed her. I'd quote it to you, but I don't have it (my teenage brother is reading it).
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Old 07-01-2008, 02:03 PM   #5
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And there is a good chance he would have refused. He had a dedication to the story that came before profits.
Maybe he'd have refused. He was writing for a living. There will be the battle between what the author wants to do and what the publisher wants to do, and sometimes the publisher wins. The author wants to sell the book...

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One of my copies of "Podkayne of Mars" is a paperback, and it includes both the ending he wrote as well as the ending that was originally published. Did you know that he killed off Podkayne?
Yes. I've known that for a long time, from well before the revised edition came out. Scribner's asked the ending be revised to have Poddy live, because they though her dying was too dark for the audience they aimed at. RAH grumbled, because he thought having Poddy live undercut the point he was making, but he complied. He was writing for a living, and wanted to sell more to that publisher.

Very few authors are in a position to reject an editorial request for changes. They can, and then try to sell the book elsewhere, but it might not sell elsewhere, and might PO the editor and make it harder to sell to that house again.

The trick is to make sure you and the editor are on the same page about what the book will be, so nothing in the revision letter will come as an unpleasant surprise like "Change the ending!".

Quote:
The book also has a personal letter in which he explains why he killed her. I'd quote it to you, but I don't have it (my teenage brother is reading it).
I suspect you have the Baen PB release, where they garnered a fair bit of criticism by having their readers vote on which ending they should use: the one Heinlein originally wrote, or the one that got published.

Mind you, Heinlein brings Poddy back (though he doesn't name her) at the end of _The Number of the Beast_.
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