Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Footfall by Larry Niven

Footfall (1985)

by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,304262,755 (3.73)55

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 55 mentions

English (24)  Italian (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (26)
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
When I picked up this book I wasn't expecting great literature. It was, after all, about an alien invasion. I was looking for something light and fun. But I found it so irritating, it finally took a sheer act of will for me to finish it.

I could write pages about what made the book so bad. This is only an outline:

1.) Characterizations. The characters were cartoons. They had no depth. That was perhaps inevitable, given the fact that the novel's dramatis personae, listed in the front of the book, consists of four pages! That's too many characters, even for a novel of over 500 pages. A reader can't get a sense of any of them. Do any of them have emotional lives? Hard to tell, given that the premise of the book is literally earth-shattering, and there's no indication that anybody's carries any trauma over it. A lot of people die, but is anyone devastated, even when losing friends, family, mates? All just seem to shake it off and life goes on.

Worst are the characterizations of women. One of the major characters is a major in Army Intelligence who becomes adviser to the President. Yet she's portrayed as a real nitwit who giggles all the time in the middle of meetings and flirts with the head of the President's Secret Service detail even the most important things are going on.

The portrayals of the alien females are no better. The aliens apparently have an even stronger patriarchal civilization than the Earthlings do. (Must be a universal law of nature in Niven-Pournelle's view?

2.) Dialogue. When the characters are cartoons, I suppose you can't expect them to talk like real people. But did the "sound" of it have be so painful? Which leads to . . .

3.) The writing in general. Who can take this kind of writing seriously:

[SCENE: The aliens have invaded Kansas by parachuting in. Reports are coming in to the President and his advisers, and they are curious to know what they look like.]
The Admiral lifted the phone. "Carrell . . . Yes, put the photographs up on the big screens. Let everyone see what we're up against."
There were five screens. One by one they filled with pictures of baby elephants. Some hung from paper airplanes and wore elevator shoes. Others were on foot. All carried weirdly shaped rifles.
Laughter sounded on the floor below, but it soon died away as the screen showed photographs of ruined buildings and wrecked cars, with alien shapes in the foreground. Bodies lay at the background of most of the pictures.
Jenny studied the photographs. They were quite good; the photographer who'd taken them said she'd sold to Sports Illustrated and other major magazines. That's the enemy.
"They do look like elephants," Admiral Carrel said.
"Yes, sir," Jenny said. "But they're not really elephants."
"No. They're invaders," General Toland said.

Even when Niven-Pournelle happen upon a happy turn-of-phrase, they botch it. When the alien mothership suffers significant damage, they write that sounds from its hull sounded like that of a "smashed banjo." That's a clever metaphor. And Niven-Pournelle must have themselves also thought so, because they then use the same metaphor three more times in the next few pages!

And if there were a word I could eliminate from their vocabulary, it would be "grin." Everybody's prompted to grin in this book for one reason or another. (Funny reaction, in the midst of an alien invasion.) If you excised all the times the word, "grin," is used in the book, there would be significant gaps in the text. Get Niven-Pounelle a thesaurus!

4.) Gratuitous ridiculousness. If the above quote isn't enough to illustrate this point (baby elephants riding parachuting under paper airplanes while wearing elevator shoes?), note that among the heroes are a swashbuckling Congressman and a bevy of science fiction writers. The SF writers are brought in to advise the President because they would seemingly know more about planning strategically against aliens than Pentagon types who have spent thousands of hours gaming all sorts of scenarios against possible invaders. Just because SF involves speculative thinking, who says that the SF writers speculations in this case are going to be better than anyone else's?

5.) An intriguing idea squandered. There is an idea at the center of the novel, but it remains seriously unexplored. The idea is that much of the carnage that is created between the aliens and the humans results basically because of fundamental cultural misunderstanding. Because the two civilizations carry different assumptions about interpersonal interactions, including conflict, they essentially kill what they don't understand. This is a important insight, having echoes in human history from ancient imperialism to US involvement in SE Asia and the Middle East. Maybe it was too uncomfortable for Niven-Pournelle to explore too deeply (as I understand they hold pretty right-wing beliefs), so they just let it go. ( )
  kvrfan | Apr 25, 2015 |
This is a serious "meh" read from Niven. I sometimes wonder (perhaps others have expressed this already) if Niven's collaborations with Pournelle were really a good idea. Maybe I'm forgetting some amazing book they wrote together, but so far, after revisiting this book and The Mote in God's Eye, I'm less than enthused. Both seemed to show far too much of Pournelle's political ideas drifting into what otherwise might have been a good story. Oh well, it was still an overall enjoyable read, but not one I'm likely to read a third time (my first read was probably around the age of 13 or so -- hence my memory of this being so useless to recommend it). ( )
  tlockney | Sep 7, 2014 |
By Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
Publisher: Del Rey
Published In: New York, NY, USA
Date: 1985
Pgs: 495


Beyond Saturn, we see them for the first time. A small series of dots on telescopic images moving against the backdrop of Saturn’s rings. Ships inbound from the deep solar system or beyond. Signals rip across space, desperately trying to make contact with the unknowns. First contact destroys a space station. Second contact, a targeted bombardment of asteroids destroys dams and installations all over the Earth. Third contact, they are landing. Their demands are simple; surrender or death.

fiction, science fiction, invasion, aliens, ufos, militaria, conquest

Why this book:
My love of Niven and Pournelle’s work. My deep fascination with aliens. My abiding affection for militaria.

This Story is About:
courage, working hard, doing the right thing, greed, friends, jealousy, love, caring, happiness, sadness, family

Favorite Character:
None of the characters really jump into my consciousness. Maybe Major Crichton, though I wish she had more page time.

Least Favorite Character:
Roger Brooks, correspondent for the Washington Post and douchebag, womanizer, and adulterer

Character I Most Identified With:
See two answers above.

The Feel:
Not sure really. I want that alien invasion sweeping over the world, fear of the other. But I’m just not getting it.

Favorite Scene:
The date gone wrong on Mauna Kea.

The well connected Academician getting attitude from the newly minted KGB officer lording it over the queue.

Submarine Ethan Allen vs. Asteroid tidal wave.

When the sheriff makes it clear that he doesn’t like the secret project going on in his town during the building of the Starship Michael and the plotting to layer the onion of the secret so that when someone does find out that they aren’t building greenhouses like the cover story says they’ll have another layer of onion to dig through.

Brooks on his way to blow the secret getting quieted down permanently the way he did. Woof!

Mauna Kea Observatory; Planet Saturn’s orbit; Washington DC; Moscow; Kosmograd Space Station; Los Angeles; Kansas; Cheyenne Mountain; Starship Message Bearer; Bellingham, Washington;

The pacing on this one is okay though a bit slow in places.

Plot Holes/Out of Character:

Last Page Sound:
What just happened? I know what it said happened. But you still don’t know what happened. There are only two options there and which one of them happened. Piss? That sucks.

Author Assessment:
I have a deep and growing fondness for the works of Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.

Editorial Assessment:
Wish this one would have gotten another treatment or two under the touch of the editor.

Did the Book Cover Reflect the Story:
I am so hoping it does. We’ve got an elephantine alien hiding behind junk with a bayonet attached to a rifle as a human soldier approaches across a field of wheat with a woman standing behind him on the cusp of a hill with her hand raised in an obvious call of warning and hope that he will be careful. The cover image is almost directly from the story. Good on them.

Hmm Moments:
When the herbivore elephantine aliens realize that their prisoners eat something like canned Spam, their reactions are great.

The Fithp’s surrender/dominance ritual and its similarity to elephant movements is fascinating. And their encountering the alien humans with their never-quitedness confuses the aliens.

The submarine sneaking elephant guns ashore for the Zulus to fight against the invaders.

Knee Jerk Reaction:
it’s alright

Disposition of Book:
Irving Public Library, Irving, TX

Why isn’t there a screenplay?
The only way this works as a movie is with an extensive rewrite taking it out of the 1980’s USSR vs USA context.

Casting call:
Brian Cox as Soviet General Narovchatov...or equally, he could play Admiral Carrell.

Yvonne Strahovski as Captain Jeanette Crichton.

Would recommend to:
genre fans ( )
  texascheeseman | Mar 25, 2014 |
My reactions to reading this novel in 1998. Spoilers follow.

I was too distracted by other things to possibly appreciate this novel, but I found it overly long for its subject but not long enough to get into any pleasing, interesting detail. Next to Fallen Angels, co-written with Michael Flynn, this is the worst Niven and Pournelle novel I’ve read. Niven and Pournelle provide an interesting rationale while the alien Fithp try to Earth: they're a young race who acquired space travel from the Predecessors, aliens who first evolved intelligence on the Fithp homeworld and then destroyed themselves. Thus the Fithp aren’t too bright or, at least, don’t think of any other option than to invade a planet instead of exploiting space.

But we don’t learn anything more about the Predecessors, really get into the dissension of the Fithp ranks, or learn a lot that much about the Fithp given the time spent on them other than they are herd animals who are used to fighting until a foe unconditionally surrenders for their whole herd. Nor do we get, a lá Niven and Pournelle’s Lucifer’s Hammer, neat description of meteor devastation. Most of it occurs off screen as does the combat in Kansas and its eventual nuking. We don’t get a really detailed look at the Orion-style spaceship Michael. We get more characters than is probably necessary – too many adulterous or sudden sexual liaisons almost as if, especially in the case of Jeri Wilson, the authors were trying to make a statement about human sexual bonding under stress and the need for women to bond to a strong man.

This book, according to an interview I read years ago with Niven and Pournelle, was supposed to have been written when Lucifer’s Hammer was, but the editor had them concentrate on Earth being bombarded. Some of the same type of characters show up here: politicians, survivalists (rather perfunctorily here), military men, reporters, playboys. (Another fault was the sudden mutiny against the president who made a reasonable decision regarding Fithp surrender. The groundwork for this plot development was not laid.) The threat team was good and plausible. I could identify several sf author surrogates: Nat Reynolds (Niven), Wade Curtis (Pournelle), and Robert Anson (Robert Anson Heinlein). I don’t know if the others were based on anyone specific. The name Joe Ransom sounds familiar. He could be Pournelle associate Dean Ing. (Niven and Pournelle have been putting disguised sf figures in their book since Inferno, their second collaboration.

I did like some things. (The breakdown of the Soviet Union was not explained.) I liked biker minstrel, Harry Reddington. I liked the eager reporter Roger Brooks being killed by environmentalist John Fox to protect Michael (ironically a atom bomb powered spaceship). I liked smuggling guns to Zulus to fight the Fithp. Pournelle does the usual propagandizing for space (though he doesn’t emphasize survivalism as much as I thought). I also liked the LA group of survivors.

A somewhat disappointing book either too long or too short. ( )
  RandyStafford | Aug 21, 2013 |
Read this one a long time ago, and mainly remember what I thought of the originality of the model for the invading aliens. Sophisticated alien elephants for the win! ( )
  Bill_Bibliomane | Aug 1, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Larry Nivenprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pournelle, Jerrymain authorall editionsconfirmed
Harris, JohnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thijssen, FelixTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Whelan, MichaelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
To Robert Gleason
First words
Within its broad array of nested rings, the planet was a seething storm.
Shuttle three, Challenger, was already lost to sight. Roy caught sight of a gunship's yellow flame just before it disappeared into a missile explosion. "Maneuvering. Stand by." Roy's sense of balance protested as Jay turned the Shuttle. "What have we got?" "Missiles. We've got five miles per second on those snout ships. The missiles only get one pass. They can't hit us if we keep veering. " "You hope." "Semper fi, mac. Let me know when you think you have a shot at something." "Yeah, sure." The missiles were in the main compartment, and the big bay doors weren't open. The ring of green lights dropped away aft. "Go, baby, go." Roy prayed. Talking to the ship. Why not? What else can I do? "Maybe we should open the bay." "No point." The dreadful green lights were fading. "Our missiles can't reach them either. Save 'em for Mommy Dearest. How long before we're in range?" "Maybe an hour, if we don't get hurt, and they don't get more acceleration." Roy poked numbers into Atlantis's computer. "Looks to me like they're pouring on all they have." "So are we. Roy - " "Yeah?" "General Gillespie said Michael might not make it." "Yeah, I heard." "That leaves it up to us." " Well, there's Challenger." "Heard from Big Jim lately?" "No." Big Jim Farr. Six four, only he managed to lose two inches in the official records. Laurie Culzer and Jane Farr and five kids were sharing a house in Port Angles. "Think he's had it, Joe." "I think we act like he's out." "Which leaves us." "Which leaves us. Maneuvering. Stand by."
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
The book depicts the arrival of members of an alien species called the Fithp that have traveled to our solar system from Alpha Centauri in a large spacecraft driven by a Bussard ramjet. The aliens are intent on taking over the Earth.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345323440, Mass Market Paperback)


--Tom Clancy

They first appear as a series of dots on astronomical plates, heading from Saturn directly toward Earth. Since the ringed planet carries no life, scientists deduce the mysterious ship to be a visitor from another star.

The world's frantic efforts to signal the aliens go unanswered. The first contact is hostile: the invaders blast a Soviet space station, seize the survivors, and then destroy every dam and installation on Earth with a hail of asteriods.

Now the conquerors are descending on the American heartland, demanding servile surrender--or death for all humans.

--The New York Times Book Review

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:06 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

The earth faces a terrible challenge from alien invaders from space in this novel by the authors of Mote in God's Eye (1975). They first appear as a series of dots on astronomical plates, heading from Saturn directly toward Earth. Since the ringed planet carries no life, scientists deduce the mysterious ship to be a visitor from another star. The world's frantic efforts to signal the aliens go unanswered. The first contact is hostile: the invaders blast a Soviet space station, seize the survivors, and then destroy every dam and installation on Earth with a hail of asteriods. Now the conquerors are descending on the American heartland, demanding servile surrender--or death for all humans.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
67 avail.
17 wanted
2 pay1 pay

Popular covers


Average: (3.73)
0.5 1
1 5
1.5 4
2 31
2.5 7
3 102
3.5 25
4 161
4.5 18
5 87


An edition of this book was published by Audible.com.

See editions

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Store | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 103,131,652 books! | Top bar: Always visible