_Red Thunder_, on the other hand, has remarkably little going on. There's a force field which supplies handy propulsion for the rocket, and that's about it.
The plot: A small group of Americans build a backyard spaceship and go to Mars. There are a few minor moments of suspence. For a while, i was hoping that even though it was slow-moving, there was a decent novella somewhere in those 411 pages. There isn't.
OK, politics. The book is libertarian (little rants about guns and drug laws) with a strong ambivalence about the US--it's good that Americans get to Mars first, but better that it isn't a government project.
The problem at my end (and not Varley's fault, I suppose) is that Abu Graib has worn the shine off being an American for me. It's just another country, with some people making an effort not to fuck up totally, but with all too many saying that rage and revenge are more important than kindness or good sense. I can't believe that the "real" America is the dream rather than what actual Americans do and believe. I believe that imagination is part of the world, but it's not the whole story.
Let the Europeans or the Chinese or someone else be first on Mars. I don't care.
Some of this is depression--when I think "what sort of a fucking idiot would let part of their happiness be in the hands of something they didn't create or control?", that's depression, but I don't think all of this is. The process that started with hearing about My Lai and thinking "but Americans don't do that--well, one of them did" just got finished. Damn, this does feel like depression, and not just politics.
I expect that the political news is just going to get worse, but can anyone recommend some good recent sf?