Lucifer's Hammer - Larry Niven

Heather

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An informal review -

I'm glad I read this book, but it definitely isn't on my list of favorites. In this story, a comet hits Earth. Tidal waves, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, tornados, blizzards, and glaciers destroy most of civilization, most of the Earth's population, and just about all of the Earth's supply of food. The novel follows a group of people that all meet up at a farming community that has managed to survive total destruction.

The story was interesting, but I was a bit disappointed with it. I didn't find myself emotionally involved with any of the characters. I generally find a science fiction book worthwhile if I finish it and wished it was part of a larger series. With Lucifer's Hammer, I didn't even care if Earth survived! I also don't agree with Niven's idea of what would happen in a situation such as this. I had to keep reminding myself that this was written a couple of decades ago.

Perhaps I'm being too harsh. There were many redeeming qualities. It was a quick read once the disaster occurred (1/3 of the way through the book). The idea of a farming community becoming the kickoff point for civilization after an apocolyptic event makes sense. The senator and the politics of the farming community were entirely believable. His idea of basic human nature is sad (even startling), and he leaves me hoping he's not right about us!
 

Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

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I haven't read this one through - actually read through a few opening chapters and zoned out pretty soon - but Niven is certainly an archetypal left-brain SF writer, better at weaving elaborate engineering constructs than tales of humanity - at least in his novel-length work. To be honest, I also think the actual quality of his prose rather lacking in proportion to his stature in the field. Then again, it maybe a matter of taste - I certainly prefer SF that is engaged with the human future, above and beyond all gadgetry, and I tend to favour writers who are 'style monkeys'.
 

Lensman

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This is my second-favorite novel by the team of Niven & Pournelle, after The Mote in God's Eye. Despite its long length, I've read it several times. I think it's a much more realistic end-of-civilization novel than others I've read (such as On the Beach and Alas, Babylon), and unlike those this doesn't flinch from what would actually happen if civilization fell. I think you'd have to go back to H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds to find another novel which so graphically and compellingly details the descent of a cultured people into barbarism.

The end of the novel is not as believable, with a nuclear power plant conveniently near the little oasis of civilization still left, and it's still operating, against long odds-- Niven & Pournelle are showing their technophilia here. But I don't really mind, it's a way to give a hopeful ending after a long series of very grim events.

I also don't agree with Niven's idea of what would happen in a situation such as this. I had to keep reminding myself that this was written a couple of decades ago.
Please expand on your thoughts; what did you think was unrealistic or unlikely?
 
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Come on guys!
The surfer riding the HUGE wave and almost making it to the hills only to find a downtown building tragically in his way
One of the best scenes in sci-fi
Plus, the idea of nuclear power plant and its machine shop kick-starting humanity is great
Remember this was written when all those people were protesting nuke plants
Finally, throwing a Knowledge Ark into a septic tank....classic
 
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I haven't read this one through - actually read through a few opening chapters and zoned out pretty soon - but Niven is certainly an archetypal left-brain SF writer, better at weaving elaborate engineering constructs than tales of humanity - at least in his novel-length work. To be honest, I also think the actual quality of his prose rather lacking in proportion to his stature in the field. Then again, it maybe a matter of taste - I certainly prefer SF that is engaged with the human future, above and beyond all gadgetry, and I tend to favour writers who are 'style monkeys'.
Why do u think that Larry collaborates so much?
Him and Pournelle = best tandem ever
 

icundell

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Pretty much agree with the OP - I think the problem is that Niven found it impossible to keep his own political interjections in any way subtle and by the end they were downright intrusive.

"We control the lightning", eh? Yup and one well place bunker-buster from Denver will soon tip that balance.
 

Jimcalagon

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Pretty much agree with the OP - I think the problem is that Niven found it impossible to keep his own political interjections in any way subtle and by the end they were downright intrusive.

"We control the lightning", eh? Yup and one well place bunker-buster from Denver will soon tip that balance.
I have to agree - but I don't mind Niven's editorial viewpoint too much as I tend to be something of a technophile.

Also - if Niven's politics in Lucifer's Hammer annoyed you, avoid 'Fallen Angels' at all costs! :)
 

chrispenycate

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Oh, "Fallen Angels" has the redeeming quality that it never once takes itself seriously, from the original characterisation (where I believe they raffled off roles at conventions for charity) through the "throw another log on the fire" philosophy, all the way through to the final, unbelievable, escape.
"Lucifer's Hammer" on the other hand does take itself at face value (and I love the surfer, too) but I don't think it's one of my favourites in his "technology for technology's sake" collaborations – perhaps "Oath of Fealty" (think of it as evolution in action) or "Footfall"
 

Jimcalagon

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"Lucifer's Hammer" on the other hand does take itself at face value (and I love the surfer, too) but I don't think it's one of my favourites in his "technology for technology's sake" collaborations – perhaps "Oath of Fealty" (think of it as evolution in action) or "Footfall"
It has to be Footfall. It might not be environmentally friendly but wouldn't it be fantastic to see an Orion spaceship lifting off? (From a distance of about 50 miles, in a lead-lined bunker, of course :) ) If we ever find a big piece of cosmic debris on a collision course with Earth, one of those babies would come in very handy.

And I use the 'evolution in action' quote a couple of times a week ;)
 

icundell

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I have to agree - but I don't mind Niven's editorial viewpoint too much as I tend to be something of a technophile.

Also - if Niven's politics in Lucifer's Hammer annoyed you, avoid 'Fallen Angels' at all costs! :)
Oh it isn't the technophilia (as a fully paid up wishy-washy-pinko-liberal I bow to nobody in my regard for all things modern), but the manner in which a certain school of blocked-headed American libertarianism think it is the only sodding one who 'gets' technology and insists on lecturing the rest of us about it.

See "What Use Is A Glass Dagger" (and accompanying deeply tedious essay by...er...some idiot...) for more in Niven's world view.*

And also every third post on Slashdot....


* Edit: that'll teach me to go from memory - the essay was with Magic Goes Away (and referenced Glass Dagger). It is still deeply tedious though
 

Jimcalagon

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Oh it isn't the technophilia (as a fully paid up wishy-washy-pinko-liberal I bow to nobody in my regard for all things modern), but the manner in which a certain school of blocked-headed American libertarianism think it is the only sodding one who 'gets' technology and insists on lecturing the rest of us about it.
:) We left-wing technophiles need to stick together!
 

littlemissattitude

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Pretty much agree with the OP - I think the problem is that Niven found it impossible to keep his own political interjections in any way subtle and by the end they were downright intrusive.

"We control the lightning", eh? Yup and one well place bunker-buster from Denver will soon tip that balance.
I was always under the impression that the politics in Lucifer's Hammer were more the responsibility of Pournelle than of Niven. That's based on things I've read as well as listening to Pournelle's participation in panels at LosCon when I've attended.

Politics aside, however, I mostly enjoyed the book, although of the Niven/Pournelle collaborations, I prefer Inferno.
 

Contrary Mary

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Lucifer's Hammer has a special place in my heart as it was the first Niven-Pournelle book I ever read--by either writer. Thus it introduced me to two good writers.

Yes, on re-readings, I can see the flaws in Lucifer's Hammer---but I still found lots to enjoy in the book. If I had to like all of a book to rate it highly, I'd be in trouble. Almost all of my favortie books--by many various authors ---are a mix of things that are great and things I could have done without.

Btw, strangely, the one collaboration I did not like was Inferno. Much prefer Oath of Fealty and Footfall.
 

Pedro Del Mar

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Only read this recently and absolutely loved it. I then passed it to my Dad who never reads SF and he enjoyed it too!
I though the characterisation was done well and the pace was spot on. Thought it was one of the best novels I'd read in a really long while.
 

oddhero

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Ha, well said. I read all of Niven and Pournelle's stuff when I was just a wee lad, and at that time lapped it up. I now see some of the clumsier propaganda (though that's maybe too harsh a word) for what it is, but still adore the books. Except Fallen Angels. Don't start me on that one...
 

BAYLOR

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Epic world disaster novel, this would have made a great film.(y)
 

BAYLOR

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I find it curious that Hollywood never tried to adapt this one as a feature film. :unsure:
 
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