Wednesday, October 04, 2006

John Varley

I recently picked up Red Thunder at the airport, Varley's omage to Heinlien. It was such a great read, and what a pleasure it was to be back in VarleyLand once again. Thunder is about a group of kids and an drunk ex-astronaut who build a rocket ship, fly it to Mars, and rescue a Nasa crew along the way. Pure camp, pure entertainment, pure fun.
The best thing the book did for me was remind me how much I loved Varley's work. I went back and bought Titan, Wizard, and Demon, which make up his Gaean trilogy and just finished those. While the books certainly remind of Ringworld, that quickly goes away as Varley introduces wild ideas, creatures, characters, and situations. These are three books where literally anything can happen (biological creatures that run kerosene ramjets and drop bio-bombs!) and generally does. The characters pull us through the mayhem, in that we genuinly care what happens to them, and where they're going. Even the odd ones.
Let's just say I never expect to be saddened by the death of a blimp again.
Ultimately, one of the best things about the series is Varley's decision to put the women front and center. Yes they are flawed, and sometimes overly needy, and overly vulnerable. But they are in charge and good at it, and manage to maintain their sexuality. Perhaps not thier sanity.
Re-reading made me hope that Mr. Varley still has something up his sleave for Cirroco and Gaby. Gaea is a huge world, and there are millenia yet to fill. How about a repair mission?
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