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Lucifer's Hammer Mass Market Paperback – May 12 1985

4.3 out of 5 stars 161 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey; 3rd edition (May 12 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0449208133
  • ISBN-13: 978-0449208137
  • Product Dimensions: 10.5 x 2.7 x 17.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 295 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars 161 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #100,332 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From the Publisher

I think this is one of the most exciting, inspiring books I've ever read. Humankind, faced with overwhelming cataclysm, regroups to fight its way back to civilization. All the way back; no settling for another uncomfortable, time-wasting Dark Age. It is a story with brain and heart--and a lot of both--and I can't figure how it missed that list of the hundred best books of the century.

--Veronica Chapman, Senior Editor --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

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

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Format: 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.
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Lucifer's Hammer was my first apocalypse. As a very young teen, I read this novel in one sitting, gripped by the idea of our civilization so easily shattered. When I sat down to read it again as an adult, I hesitated. So many of my beloved books of childhood have failed to live up to memory. Not so with this one. Aside from the lack of Google and the ubiquitous smartphone, I hardly noticed the difference in era. The themes are as relevant now as they were then and even more pressing. I highly recommend this book, easily one of my top five ever read.
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Format: 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.
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Format: 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.
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