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Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven
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Lucifer's Hammer (1977)

by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3,303471,651 (3.94)1 / 117
Recently added byprivate library, ianewby, ZoraS, jayesh.bhoot, jhunley, lluis.dolors, BrandonKendhammer, elm_sw, ACH490
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Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
One of my favorite near future sci-fi novels. Dated (1977), but still relevant. ( )
  Razinha | May 23, 2017 |


The Hammer disregards all pleas not to 'hurt 'em.'


_____

There should be a name for the particular type of book that is exemplified by some popular novels published between the late 1950s and the early 1980s. It's very distinctive, but hard to describe. Some characteristics include: an insistence on referring to men by their last names only, flat characterization which tends to adhere to sterotypical gender roles, a focus on jobs/career as being a key part of identity, and a predominance of loveless relationships and adulterous affairs. It's more than just that, though - I really have never managed to quite put my finger on it. But it doesn't take long to recognize. After a few pages, I was like, "Oh, it's one of those." (I also thought, throughout reading it, that it was published in 1970, not 1977 - maybe I saw a bit of misinformation, but it feels VERY dated and regressive.)

Still, this started out in the three-star range, and stayed there for about the first 40% of the book. For that section, I was strongly reminded of Neal Stephenson's 'Seveneves,' to the point where I suspected (and still suspect) that Stephenson read this book - and wanted to do it better. (Stephenson succeeded, if that was the goal.) Of course, the difference is that in Seveneves, we're getting hit by moon bits and in Lucifer's Hammer, by comet bits, but the setup is very similar: We see the discovery of the phenomenon, the media reaction, and start glimpsing the effects on the daily lives of a wide range of people, including politicians, experts, and average joes. There's also the crew up in Skylab. There's a huge cast of characters, which meant for me, in this book, that I didn't feel emotionally invested in any of them, and for a while, the book dragged a bit. (The way the many characters were handled reminded me a bit of Kim Stanley Robinson's 'Mars' books - but those are better-written (sensing a trend here?))

When the comet hits and disaster strikes, things picked up a bit. (How could that not be exciting?) Unlike 'Seveneves', we get a more typical 'aftermath.' The book focuses on rural California, and a group of ranchers that pull together for survival, initially joined by their dedicated mailman, who insists on continuing his route. (Did this influence David Brin's 'The Postman'? If so, again, Brin did it better.) As the small details of survival go on, the book becomes very similar to Pat Frank's 1959 'Alas Babylon,' in the way it focuses on a small group in an isolated rural location, and the ins-and-outs of how they keep alive. It got a bit tedious - and quite sexist (repeated mentions of man's 'natural instinct' to 'protect the female' coming out, and how 'women's lib' is now defunct), with a few dashes of racism. I'm also a lot more inclined to be forgiving of certain attitudes in a 1959 book than in a 1977 book. Throughout this part of the book, my opinion dropped down to two stars.

Around 80%, Niven and Pournelle pull out all the stops. It's like they figured, "If they've read this far, they're not going to stop now, so we can go all out and pull no punches with what we really think." This final part of the book is almost like a satire of right-wing attitudes - except that it's painfully clear that it's in earnest. I guess that it's a fascinating glimpse into everything that those of a certain mindset really fear?

(Talking about the end here, so - hiding... but really, I'd recommend reading this spoiler instead of the book):
The finale is a drawn-out, multi-part big Showdown Battle - the opposing sides are: on one side, of course, our brave American ranchers. The ranchers are White and Conservative, although joined by one Exceptional Black Man who literally says, at one point, disparaging equal-rights activists "I have all the equality I've ever wanted." There are also the two Russians who exist to mention how superior the US is to Russia in oh so many ways, and the reformed hippies who have realized that communes are a bad idea. Oh, at the very end, out of the blue appear some previously-unmentioned Noble Indian warriors. Oh, and don't forget that a point is made that "men and women are still different" and due to tough times, kids have to grow up fast - which means that boys fight & teen girls are now fair game for middle-aged men. Politicians and military men (who are all physically large; that point is made repeatedly) feature prominently.

Opposing our Brave Heroes is a diverse rampaging army made up of (I kid you not): Trade Unionists (damn commies!), Environmentalists, Black Panthers, Back to Nature types (including Hippies and proponents of organic farming), and assorted City Folk, who are led by a raving preacher who forces them into bloody cannibalistic rituals. (!!!) I mean, it seems like it HAS to be a joke...? But then it's just not very funny...

To top it all off, there's a Great Battle to Save the Nuclear Plant from the Mixed-Race Horde. Bear in mind, the reason to save the power plant is not because destroying the plant could result in a nuclear meltdown which would render the entire area uninhabitable. Noooo... this is a VERY SAFE nuclear plant, and that could never happen due to all the Safety Features. No, it becomes a symbol of the Light and Hope of All Future Technology-Based Civilization, which is driven home in a luridly purple death scene, in case the readers missed it.

So, woo-hoo! The battle is won. It is pointed out repeatedly that one should not regard ones' enemies as human; they're just ants. Technology will be rebuilt, but until it is, it's gonna be "A Man's World." People will work hard in a manly way, accompanied by their strong yet womanly women. They will be cooperative, but not in a communist way. Justice will be harsh. And as the cherry on top of this fantasy, slavery is reinstated. (Yes, really!) Woo-hoo!


And... down to one star.

Read for post-apocalyptic book club. I guess I'm glad I read it, just because I've seen it around nearly my whole life - even physically picked it up in the library on a couple of occasions - but never read it until now. But, hoo-boy, this was quite something. And not a good something. ( )
2 vote AltheaAnn | Aug 4, 2016 |


The Hammer disregards all pleas not to 'hurt 'em.'


_____

There should be a name for the particular type of book that is exemplified by some popular novels published between the late 1950s and the early 1980s. It's very distinctive, but hard to describe. Some characteristics include: an insistence on referring to men by their last names only, flat characterization which tends to adhere to sterotypical gender roles, a focus on jobs/career as being a key part of identity, and a predominance of loveless relationships and adulterous affairs. It's more than just that, though - I really have never managed to quite put my finger on it. But it doesn't take long to recognize. After a few pages, I was like, "Oh, it's one of those." (I also thought, throughout reading it, that it was published in 1970, not 1977 - maybe I saw a bit of misinformation, but it feels VERY dated and regressive.)

Still, this started out in the three-star range, and stayed there for about the first 40% of the book. For that section, I was strongly reminded of Neal Stephenson's 'Seveneves,' to the point where I suspected (and still suspect) that Stephenson read this book - and wanted to do it better. (Stephenson succeeded, if that was the goal.) Of course, the difference is that in Seveneves, we're getting hit by moon bits and in Lucifer's Hammer, by comet bits, but the setup is very similar: We see the discovery of the phenomenon, the media reaction, and start glimpsing the effects on the daily lives of a wide range of people, including politicians, experts, and average joes. There's also the crew up in Skylab. There's a huge cast of characters, which meant for me, in this book, that I didn't feel emotionally invested in any of them, and for a while, the book dragged a bit. (The way the many characters were handled reminded me a bit of Kim Stanley Robinson's 'Mars' books - but those are better-written (sensing a trend here?))

When the comet hits and disaster strikes, things picked up a bit. (How could that not be exciting?) Unlike 'Seveneves', we get a more typical 'aftermath.' The book focuses on rural California, and a group of ranchers that pull together for survival, initially joined by their dedicated mailman, who insists on continuing his route. (Did this influence David Brin's 'The Postman'? If so, again, Brin did it better.) As the small details of survival go on, the book becomes very similar to Pat Frank's 1959 'Alas Babylon,' in the way it focuses on a small group in an isolated rural location, and the ins-and-outs of how they keep alive. It got a bit tedious - and quite sexist (repeated mentions of man's 'natural instinct' to 'protect the female' coming out, and how 'women's lib' is now defunct), with a few dashes of racism. I'm also a lot more inclined to be forgiving of certain attitudes in a 1959 book than in a 1977 book. Throughout this part of the book, my opinion dropped down to two stars.

Around 80%, Niven and Pournelle pull out all the stops. It's like they figured, "If they've read this far, they're not going to stop now, so we can go all out and pull no punches with what we really think." This final part of the book is almost like a satire of right-wing attitudes - except that it's painfully clear that it's in earnest. I guess that it's a fascinating glimpse into everything that those of a certain mindset really fear?

(Talking about the end here, so - hiding... but really, I'd recommend reading this spoiler instead of the book):
The finale is a drawn-out, multi-part big Showdown Battle - the opposing sides are: on one side, of course, our brave American ranchers. The ranchers are White and Conservative, although joined by one Exceptional Black Man who literally says, at one point, disparaging equal-rights activists "I have all the equality I've ever wanted." There are also the two Russians who exist to mention how superior the US is to Russia in oh so many ways, and the reformed hippies who have realized that communes are a bad idea. Oh, at the very end, out of the blue appear some previously-unmentioned Noble Indian warriors. Oh, and don't forget that a point is made that "men and women are still different" and due to tough times, kids have to grow up fast - which means that boys fight & teen girls are now fair game for middle-aged men. Politicians and military men (who are all physically large; that point is made repeatedly) feature prominently.

Opposing our Brave Heroes is a diverse rampaging army made up of (I kid you not): Trade Unionists (damn commies!), Environmentalists, Black Panthers, Back to Nature types (including Hippies and proponents of organic farming), and assorted City Folk, who are led by a raving preacher who forces them into bloody cannibalistic rituals. (!!!) I mean, it seems like it HAS to be a joke...? But then it's just not very funny...

To top it all off, there's a Great Battle to Save the Nuclear Plant from the Mixed-Race Horde. Bear in mind, the reason to save the power plant is not because destroying the plant could result in a nuclear meltdown which would render the entire area uninhabitable. Noooo... this is a VERY SAFE nuclear plant, and that could never happen due to all the Safety Features. No, it becomes a symbol of the Light and Hope of All Future Technology-Based Civilization, which is driven home in a luridly purple death scene, in case the readers missed it.

So, woo-hoo! The battle is won. It is pointed out repeatedly that one should not regard ones' enemies as human; they're just ants. Technology will be rebuilt, but until it is, it's gonna be "A Man's World." People will work hard in a manly way, accompanied by their strong yet womanly women. They will be cooperative, but not in a communist way. Justice will be harsh. And as the cherry on top of this fantasy, slavery is reinstated. (Yes, really!) Woo-hoo!


And... down to one star.

Read for post-apocalyptic book club. I guess I'm glad I read it, just because I've seen it around nearly my whole life - even physically picked it up in the library on a couple of occasions - but never read it until now. But, hoo-boy, this was quite something. And not a good something. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Aug 4, 2016 |
Very Rereadable

Over many years now I have re-read this book so many times that the paperback is pretty much worn, and I've acquired it on my Kindle. ( )
  acf151 | Jun 18, 2016 |
A potboiler of a book, with too many characters and a plot that doesn't go anywhere for the first hundred pages while the authors are busy introducing everybody. It gets better once the hammer drops, but it's hard to shake the feeling that it's more of a messy blueprint for an all-star movie than a book. ( )
  unclebob53703 | May 6, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
"Good, solid science, a gigantic but well developed and coordinated cast of characters, and about a megaton of suspenseful excitement."
added by sturlington | editLibrary Journal 102 (13): p1528., Judith T Yamamoto (Jul 1, 1977)
 

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Larry Nivenprimary authorall editionscalculated
Pournelle, Jerrymain authorall editionsconfirmed
Feidel, GottfriedTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Freas, KellyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Neil Armstrong and Buz Aldrin, the first men to walk on another world; to Michael Collins, who waited; and to those who died trying, Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee, Ed White, Georgi Dobrovolsky, Viktor Patsayev, Nikolai Volkov, and all the others.
First words
Before the sun burned, before the planets formed, there were chaos and the comets.
Quotations
He squinted against the brilliance. It flared and he closed his eyes. That was a reflex; wave reflections were a common thing out here. The flare died against his closed eyelids, and he looked out to sea. Wave coming?    

   He saw a fiery could lift beyond the horizon. He studied it, squinting, making himself believe…  

   “Big wave coming.” He called, and rose to his knees.    
    Corey called, “Where?”      
   “You’ll see it,” Gil called confidently. He turned his board and paddled out to sea, bending almost until his cheek touched the board, using long, deep sweeps of his long arms. He was scared shitless, but nobody would ever know it.     “Wait for me!” Jeanine called.    Gil continued paddling. Others followed, but only the strongest could keep up. Corey pulled abreast of him.      “I saw the fireball!” he shouted. He panted with effort. “It’s Lucifer’s Hammer! Tidal wave!”     Gil said nothing. Talk was discouraged out here, but the others jabbered among themselves, and Gill paddled even faster, leaving them. A man ought to be alone during a thing like this. He was beginning to grasp the fact of death.      Rain came, and he paddled on. He glanced back to see the houses and bluff receding, going uphill, leaving an enormous stretch of new beach, gleaming wet. Lightening flared along the hills above Malibu.     The hills had changed. The orderly buildings of Santa Monica had tumbled into heaps.     The horizon went up.      Death. Inevitable. If death was inevitable, what was left? Style, only style. Gil went on paddling, riding the receding waters until motion was gone. He was a long way out now. He turned his board and waited.     Others caught up and turned, spread across hundreds of yards in the rainy waters. If they spoke, Gil couldn’t hear them. There was a terrifying rumble behind him. Gil waited a moment longer, then paddled like mad, sure deep strokes, doing it well and truly.    He was sliding downhill, down the big green wall, and the water was lifting hard beneath him, so that he rested on knees and elbows with the blood pouring into his face, bugging his eyes, starting a nosebleed. The pressure was enormous, unbearable, then it eased. With the speed he’d gained he turned the board, scooting down and sideways along the nearly vertical wall, balancing on knees…     He stood up. He needed more angle, more. If he could reach the peak of the wave he’d be out of it, he could actually live through this! Ride it out, ride it out, and do it well…     Other boards had turned too. He saw them ahead of him, above and below on the green wall. Corey had turned the wrong way. He shot beneath Gil’s feet, moving faster than hell and looking terrified.     They swept toward the bluff. They were higher than the bluff. The beach house and the Santa Monica pier with its carousel and all the yachts anchored nearby slid beneath the waters. Then they were looking down on streets and cars. Gil had a momentary glimpse of a bearded man kneeling with others; then the waters swept on past. The base of the wall was churning chaos, white foam and swirling debris and thrashing bodies and tumbling cars.     Below him now was Santa Monica Boulevard. The wave swept over the Mall, adding the wreckage of shops and shoppers and potted trees and bicycles to the crashing foam below. As the wave engulfed each low building he braced himself for the shock, squatting low. The board slammed against his feet, and he nearly lost it; he saw Tommy Schumacher engulfed, gone, his board bounding high and whirling crazily. Only two boards left now.      The wave’s frothing peak was far, far above him; the churning base was much too close. His legs shrieked in the agony of exhaustion. One board left ahead of him, ahead and below. Who? It didn’t matter; he saw it dip into chaos, gone. Gil risked a quick look back; nobody there. He was alone on the ultimate wave.     Oh, God, if he lived to tell this tale, what a movie it would make! Bigger than The Endless Summer, bigger that The Towering Inferno: a surfing movie with ten million in special effects! If only his legs would hold! He already had a world record, he must be at least a mile inland, no one had ever ridden a wave for a mile! But the frothing, purling peak was miles overhead and the Barrington Apartments, thirty stories tall, was coming at him like a flyswatter.
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Book description
The story details a cometary impact on Earth, an end to civilization, and the battle for the future. It encompasses the discovery of the comet, the LA social scene, and a cast of diverse characters whom fate seems to smile upon and allow to survive the massive cataclysm and the resulting tsunamis, plagues, famines and battles amongst scavengers and cannibals.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0449208133, Mass Market Paperback)

The gigantic comet had slammed into Earth, forging earthquakes a thousand times too powerful to measure on the Richter scale, tidal waves thousands of feet high. Cities were turned into oceans; oceans turned into steam. It was the beginning of a new Ice Age and the end of civilization. But for the terrified men and women chance had saved, it was also the dawn of a new struggle for survival--a struggle more dangerous and challenging than any they had ever known....
"Massively entertaining."
CLEVELAND PLAIN-DEALER

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:22 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

As the great Hamner-Brown comet, dubbed Lucifer's Hammer by the press, approaches Earth, various business executives, politicians, criminals, journalists, and scientists await the impending cataclysm and its general and personal effects with decidedly differing feelings.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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