cover image Red Lightning

Red Lightning

John Varley, . . Ace, $23.95 (330pp) ISBN 978-0-441-01364-7

Ray Garcia-Strickland is just another Martian teenager. Sure, his parents are two of the ultra-famous original Mars colonists (as detailed in Varley's rollicking Red Thunder ), but who cares when he's got school, girls and airboard tricks to think about? Then an object traveling at the speed of light slams into Earth, causing a massive tsunami that swamps Atlantic islands and coasts, including Ray's grandmother's Florida home. When the Garcia-Stricklands return from wading through the horrifying aftermath in search of survivors, they find that Ray's eccentric uncle, Jubal, has developed a gizmo that stops time and used it to mail himself to Mars. Drawing unabashedly on current events from 9/11 to Hurricane Katrina, the author mixes space opera–esque adventure and merriment with uncensored images of disaster areas and teenage sex. At his Heinlein-channeling best, Varley preaches the gospel of individual responsibility with all the fervor of a space-age libertarian revival preacher. (Apr.)