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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Niven and Pournelle's `Lucifer's Hammer'
This is without a doubt one of the best books that I've ever read and makes me very thankful that Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, who are very good authors in their own right, joined forces to become a force to be reckoned with anyone in terms of character creations, spinning a good yarn and making it very real. I read this book shortly after it was published, and more...
Published on Dec 22 2003 by Daniel A. Hart

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The "Hammer" drops!
The Hamner-Brown comet, separately but concurrently discovered by a pair of very excited amateur astronomers, was still a very, very long way from the earth in a typical high eccentricity orbit having barely begun its descent toward the sun. As the world's telescopes are trained on the incoming comet and its orbit is calculated to higher and higher degrees of accuracy,...
Published on Jan. 3 2009 by Paul Weiss


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The "Hammer" drops!, Jan. 3 2009
By 
Paul Weiss (Dundas, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Lucifer's Hammer (Mass Market Paperback)
The Hamner-Brown comet, separately but concurrently discovered by a pair of very excited amateur astronomers, was still a very, very long way from the earth in a typical high eccentricity orbit having barely begun its descent toward the sun. As the world's telescopes are trained on the incoming comet and its orbit is calculated to higher and higher degrees of accuracy, the possibility of an impact with the earth escalates to an uncomfortably high probability. The minute changes in mass and momentum, outgassing and the resulting small changes in the comet's orbit caused by the sun's radiation make it impossible, even up to the moment of actual impact, to accurately predict whether the comet would graze the earth's atmosphere, pass it by entirely or devastate earth with a direct impact.

Panic begins to tighten its grip on the world as a zealous fundamentalist preacher whips the US into a religious frenzy suggesting that the comet is a punishment from God visited upon a wicked humanity. Hoarding begins and roads clog as the population begins a mass exodus from coastal cities in anticipation of the possible tsunami that would result if the comet landed in the ocean. Even a joint Apollo-Soyuz mission sent into space to study the comet, now dubbed "The Hammer" by popular media, is unable to confirm or refute its potential collision with earth.

The final result is perhaps the worst of all possible outcomes. The Hammer does fall, having broken up into several smaller comets that land around the world with devastating results, striking parts of Europe, Africa, the Gulf of Mexico, and both the Pacific and Atlantic. Volcanoes and earthquakes are endemic around the entire Pacific basin as fault lines shift in California and everywhere else along the fabled Ring of Fire.

Tsunamis ravage every conceivable inch of exposed ocean coastline and upstream for miles along major rivers such as the Mississippi. Weeks of non-stop rain liberally loaded with salt from the ocean impact drowns a devastated world for weeks after the initial impact and flooding destroys practically every dam and levee, leaving a search for food a top survival priority. Civilization simply falls apart as people are forced to defend themselves and whatever they were able to salvage from one another.

"Lucifer's Hammer" is Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's graphic but frighteningly realistic vision of humanity's descent into anarchy and chaos and its struggle to re-establish a semblance of normality after an apocalyptic event devastates the world with inconceivable damage and death but does not actually push humanity over the brink of extinction - hoarding; heroism; brutality; the potential change in attitudes towards sex, sexuality, racism, marriage, religion and love; the evolution (or devolution) of government from democracy into more effective alternatives under the circumstances; the re-establishment of innovation and technological expertise; the potentially changing roles of women in a more basic almost feudally structured society; and, of course much more.

Most readers would class "Lucifer's Hammer" as science fiction. However, I believe it is fundamentally an exciting thriller and a very impressive extended essay on the psychology and anthropology of humanity's behaviour in the face of global tragedy. The science of the comet, its formation in the distant Oort cloud, its orbit, its structure, its evolution as it accelerates towards the sun and the aftermath as the remnants race away from earth back into deep space, is touched upon but only in a cursory fashion.

Sci-fi fans will probably think the book relatively weak in this area and would have hoped for much more depth in the science. Thriller fans, on the other hand, will see "Lucifer's Hammer" as an exciting post-apocalyptic novel that just begs to be turned into a movie with an enormous budget for special effects.

From my perspective as a long-time fan of classic sci-fi, "Lucifer's Hammer" gets only three stars. Others, less concerned about the science will doubtless rate it higher. I recommend that you read it and judge for yourself. You'll enjoy the book no matter which genre your tastes favour.

Paul Weiss
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Niven and Pournelle's `Lucifer's Hammer', Dec 22 2003
By 
Daniel A. Hart (Alexandria, VA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Lucifer's Hammer (Mass Market Paperback)
This is without a doubt one of the best books that I've ever read and makes me very thankful that Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, who are very good authors in their own right, joined forces to become a force to be reckoned with anyone in terms of character creations, spinning a good yarn and making it very real. I read this book shortly after it was published, and more than 20 years later, it's still one of my favorites. The authors do a great job of capturing people, their hopes and their fears realized as the comet approaches and their reactions and deeds in the aftermath. For a great ``end-of-the-world'' book with wonderful imagery that can really evoke the amazing pictures in one's mind's-eye...this is NOT to be missed. Read it now.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great book about the end of the world., Jan. 26 2003
By 
M. E. Newell (Georgia, United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lucifer's Hammer (Mass Market Paperback)
I love books and movies about the end of the world, I don't know why but I do. "Lucifer's Hammer" by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle tell about a comet heading for earth. The authors give us characters from every different social group and how the diaster effect them. The books is dated in some parts the reader is easiler able to over look this. The only reason that it didn't get five stars from me is the ending could have been a little stronger. But overall still a great book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wherein we learn just how fragile a basket the Earth can be., Nov. 16 2002
By 
Beeblebrox (United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Lucifer's Hammer (Mass Market Paperback)
Apopcalyptic-fiction books seem to take on a familiar pattern. Threat to Earth emerges, four to six people come out of the woodwork to deal with it somehow, some of them have sex with each other or someone else. The disaster strikes, and a boatload of people die. Some of the four-to-six lead characters are involved in picking up the pieces. The National Guard is co-opted by savages and ends up imposing some sort of martial law or military regime. And so on.
All this is found in "Lucifer's Hammer." But while the formula is trite and hackneyed in other works, Niven and Pournelle make it work. They breathe life into their characters that's sadly lacking elsewhere. One feels the tension and anguish surely experienced by the characters -- and indeed by the rest of the world -- as the comet draws nearer and nearer, subjecting humanity to sure doom.
The authors even manage to inject some humor into a deadly serious topic -- for instance, letting some stoned California surfers ride their last wave, the biggest one in history, formed by the collision of part of the comet with the Pacific Ocean.
This book's sheer scope, and the magnitude of the disaster imparted, can be overwhelming at times. I first read it at the beach one summer; I still recall lying on the sand, watching the tide come in and washing the sand from my feet, thinking "it just doesn't matter ... we humans don't matter; we're so insignificantly powerless against something like that."
This, perhaps, is the most important part of "Lucifer's Hammer" -- gaining an understanding about how vulnerable humanity is to a mass disaster. As Robert Heinlein wrote, "The Earth is just too small and fragile a basket for the human race to keep all its eggs in." Ironically, and not surprisingly, the authors reproduce this quote in the book's frontispiece.
Yes, the book is dated. It didn't age well with the passing of the years; one can't help but envision the characters wearing polyester leisure suits with big pointy collars and driving huge Cadillac Eldorados which get 10 miles to the gallon. But that's mostly irrelevant. Imagine a 1970s-era human race being destroyed if you need to.
The point is that "Lucifer's Hammer" provides the most gripping portrait yet of what a mass calamity would do to the planet -- but it also shows how man can endure almost any tragedy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Science Fiction Landmark, July 9 2002
By 
Rodger Raubach (Converse County ,WY USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lucifer's Hammer (Mass Market Paperback)
Altho' I originally read this book back in 1986 , it has lost none of it's appeal to an old SciFi junkie like myself! Yeah , I know that the first part of the story is a little slow...but it really picks up just as the "hammer" is about to strike the Earth and everybody tries to "head for the hills".
The riots and traffic jams in L.A. seemed to mirror reality pretty well. I don't call the book "racist" since the authors' intent was in several ways predictive of actual events that actually transpired later (but for different causes).
Remember, folks , that this is a work of FICTION. One of the precepts drummed into my thick head in my college English and various literature classes is that fiction often is a window into the world as perceived by the author!
When the book was written , the times were pretty turbulent in Southern California. One could perhaps infer that the book was a societal warning. In the end , mankind manages to survive in spite of food shortages , a war with the cannibal army (reinforced with the National Guard!). The final few pages are perhaps a little "trite" about trying to restart a nuclear power plant and return the power grid.
This is a SciFi classic regardless of a few warts. It really is a fun read. It may scare the stuffings out of you , but it also may make you think about the truly fragile nature of our society and how thin is the veneer of man's behavior towards his fellow man.Even tho't is now a little dated , I recommend it highly even for younger readers. It never becomes as sleazy as some of Harry Turtledove's more recent opuses. A solid 4 stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great story and not as racist as has been claimed, Oct. 18 2001
By 
Michael P. Clawson (Austin, TX) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lucifer's Hammer (Mass Market Paperback)
There have been so many reviews accusing this book of being racist that I guess I'll have to address that issue before I can even talk about my opinion of the book. What a lot of people don't seem to realize these days is that there's a differnce between portraying racism (e.g. in a novel) and actually supporting racism. In my opinion Niven and Pournelle weren't trying to stereotype blacks or make any kind of political statement, they were simply depicting something that could likely take place. It's not all that far fetched to believe that an inner city LA gang of African-Americans would band together after an apocalypse and might hook up with a radical fanaticist army promising them power, plenty to eat, and no racial barriers. And they weren't the only ones doing this. As I remember, they weren't even the ones who started the cannibalism. That was an army platoon mainly composed of white guys who did that, and forced everyone else to come on board or else starve or be killed. As I see it Niven and Pournelle gave a fairly accurate depiction of race relations as they stood in 1970. If I thought they were deliberately targeting one group or another and trying to negatively stereotype them, I could just as easily complain that this book is biased against Christians since it displayed the leader of the cannibals as an insane preacher. But I don't complain because I know they weren't trying to take potshots at Christianity, they were merely portraying what could happen, same as they were portraying what could happen to an inner city gang after the end of the world.
That being said. I do think that this book was one of the best end of the world stories I have read yet. It is riveting and you won't be able to put it down after the Hammer actually falls. In these kinds of stories I always like best the parts about what kind of society would develop after the apocalypse, and I thought this portrayal was very accurate. The cannibalism (far from being a racist device against blacks) is probably an accurate picture of what some people will be forced to when all the food is wiped out. And the new feudal system which quickly develops is almost certainly the way things would have to be structured for survival and protection, in the early days at least.
I would give one warning. The book is not at all interesting until about 100 to 150 pages into it. It moves very, very slowly at first as the authors introduce each of numerous character in depth. You will probably need to use the character list in the front of the book just to keep everyone straight at first. I almost gave up on the book at first, but trust me, every character is important and will figure into the story at some later point. This can be a clue to the plot if, when you're being introduced to a character in the beginning, you think about how they might figure in later. At any rate, the action greatly picks up and doesn't let up from the moment the comet hits till the end of the book.
If you're a fan of apocalyptic fiction this is a must read. It's a classic in the genre on the same level as "On the Beach" or "A Canticle for Liebowitz".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An impressive portrayal of frightening apocalyptic events., Sept. 21 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Lucifer's Hammer (Mass Market Paperback)
Larry Niven hit the nail on the head, with his story of the gargantuan comet that throws Earth, and society into chaos. The story development (including the character introductions and the unfolding set-up to the novel) was the perfect length, without throwing the comet into the story too early. The authors' depictions of the post- apocalyptic gangs which came to be were stunning, and brutally real, without any cowardly censorship, or gentle twists. Overall, the struggle to survive was effective as a steady clincher, but too often, I found the "non- stop action and suspense" lacking, when, at times, too many pages were devoted to boring descriptions and interpretations. However, these instances were far and few- between, and overall, this novel was an interesting look at what human nature can be reduced to, in the most horrible of circumstances.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Meh., Jan. 10 2014
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This review is from: Lucifer's Hammer (Kindle Edition)
Basic sci-fi. I don't understand the enthusiasm for this book. Nowhere near as good as the classic science fiction writers. Save your money for something better written.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A great classic, Oct. 23 2013
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This review is from: Lucifer's Hammer (Kindle Edition)
Apocalyptic fiction is quite popular now, but I originally read this book many years ago, when "Lucifer's Hammer" and "On the Beach" (Neville Shute) were the rarity. It starts out slowly, establishing various characters in their daily lives, and then calamity ensues. What would you do to survive? That's the riveting question. This is a fascinating and very plausible story about the survivors adapting to their changed world, and the choices that they make. A favorite that I return to read. I highly recommend it!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Best End of the World book Ever, Feb. 14 2004
By 
Dean A.J. Spizzirri (Torrance, California USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Lucifer's Hammer (Mass Market Paperback)
I first read this when I was in 5th or 6th grade...in the 70's. I still re-read it at least every few years and it is still my favorite end of the world book ever. While some of the plots and descriptions of the world have become outdated, they rang true at the time. When given the chance I tracked Mr. Pournelle and Mr. Niven down and got a signed copy. To this day Mr. Pournelle is my favorite all time SF author. If you haven't read his books you are missing one of the Icons of the artform.
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Lucifer's Hammer
Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven (Mass Market Paperback - May 12 1985)
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