And the heart-pounding space race is on! When a Chinese spacecraft, Heavenly Harmony, threatens to land on Mars a few days before the U.S. shuttle vehicle Ares Seven, washed-up ex-astronaut Travis Broussard, his brilliant but unconventional cousin, Jubal, and four kids from Florida decide to build their own private spaceship, Red Thunder, and get there first in this riveting SF thriller from Hugo and Nebula award winner Varley. Jubal has invented an amazing new power source, the Squeezer, which provides enough thrust to get them to Mars in a mere three days. While the Chinese and other Americans head to Mars the long way, the team works feverishly to build a spaceworthy craft, because although they all want Americans to land on Mars first, a more pressing reason for their visit to the red planet arises. Jubal has discovered a potentially disastrous design flaw in Ares Seven, which has Travis's ex-wife aboard. With a plausible cover story, a lot of help and a raided trust fund, Red Thunder gets built. Will its creators evade the feds who keep nosing around? Will they launch? Will they beat the Chinese to Mars? Can they save Ares Seven? Do you have to ask? In the end, they put their lives on the line, proving that Everyman can be a hero, too. With hilarious, well-drawn characters, extraordinary situations presented plausibly, plus exciting action and adventure, this book should do thunderously well. (Apr.)
Forecast:The Tom Clancy–ish jacket art is misleading, but Varley's name in big type at the top will ensure this reaches his core audience of male adolescents and young men.