I really, really enjoyed this book. In much the same style as Heinlein did in the mid 20th century, Varley has generated a tale of young people doing amazing things. It's a celebration of American-style innovation and risk-taking, of youth, and of underdogs, with a slight anti-government thread woven through. I loved the characters, I loved the plot, and I loved the feeling I was left with when the book was done.
You could complain that these kids had everything go right. They tried things that would probably kill or injure 99 of 100 people who attempted them, yet time and again, things went well. But there's good in that. This isn't the study of mistakes, this is a study of the power of optimism and a bit of foresight. The characters can easily become role-models for kids who read the novel, rather than tragic figures whose behavior should not be replicated.
I'd heartily recommend this to young teens as well. The celebration of youth is enough to keep them interested, but there's lots more.
Four young adults in Daytona, FL nearly run over a drunk ex-astronaut as he laid in the surf at night on the beach to see his ex wife launch on a mission to Mars (wow, is that a run-on?). What follows is a fun and enjoyable read.
The cousin of the the drunk is a brain damaged genius that has invented a machine that he intends to market as a game of sorts. It is soon discovered that what he has invented will change the course of humanity.
This book is a fun read with believable characters and high adventure. However, some areas fall a little flat: the description of the squeezer is hard to picture and even harder to believe and some of the things that happen are hard to picture in your mind. I'm sure Varley understood what he was trying to say...it just wasn't that clear.
Also, this book is marketed as a Heinlein-esk juvenile novel. A word of warning: this book contains graphic depictions of sex, alcohol abuse, underage alcohol use, reference to drug use, and a fairly horrific example of child abuse (it involves a 2x4 with nails driven through it).
A great, fun read! A group of suburban misfits band together to build a spaceship out of old tanker cars to beat the Chinese to Mars and to save a group of astronauts from a marooned space station. Great characters, lots of adventure.