Footfall
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68 of 72 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon July 23, 2001
This is a stupendous novel. I decided to read this novel after finishing "A Mote in Gods Eye". Mote was my first experience reading Niven and Pournelle as a team and I was suitably impressed. This book was even better in my most humble opinion.
Footfall tells the tale of an alien incursion to Earth in a manner which Hollywood and most authors today never could. There is no pretense, no presuppositions of actions and conduct. The aliens are alien and not just funny almost humans as so often happens in Science Fiction today. The motivations for the aliens are superbly drawn yet completely foreign. The society is bizarre but believable. Wonderful indeed.
The invasion is not a rehash of the same tired story told in Independence Day and many other such tales. Why should aliens come to this planet with the same motivations we would approach other planets? Why should aliens be interested in our culture and society in the same way in which we would be interested in theirs? Niven and Pournelle do an excellent job in portraying a realistic scenario that is spellbinding in its breadth and stupendous in its readability.
I can't tell more without giving away too much of the tale but rest assured this is a novel worthy of the title classic. Excellent and worth every one of its five stars.
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57 of 62 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 3, 2004
I still think this is the best alien-invasion story I've ever
read. Granted, it's hard to write a sensible invasion story, given that
a) it's hard to think of a reason for rational aliens to invade, and
b) if they did, they should win overwhelmingly. See rifles vs. spears.
But it makes a great *story*, and N&P have given probably as
reasonable a backstory as anyone could. As an example of high-level
page-turner storytelling, Footfall still rings my chimes. I've read it
three times, plus the last time I picked it up a couple of years ago, to
jog my memory to reply to a post, I got sucked in again and spent the
afternoon rereading the good parts. "Orion will Rise" -- all right!

Footfall is dragged down a bit by dated political background: the
USSR is alive and well here, and is portrayed as considerably
stronger and healthier than it actually was in 1985. I'd skim over the
Russian scenes; in fact the book is pretty slow-moving until the
aliens arrive, so a quick skim of most of this early scene-setting
material is all you need.

And make no mistake, once the action starts, you'll have no further
complaints. Good stuff, guys.

Happy reading!
Peter D. Tillman
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on December 12, 1996
This book is the best alien-invasion story I've ever read. Niven and Pournelle present thoroughly rich characters on both sides, human and alien. The alien culture is well thought out and fully developed. They have their own language and customs, both of which have a direct, visceral impact upon the story. Essentially, an alien vessel has been observed heading through the solar system toward earth. Not knowing what to expect but acquiescing to the probability of superior technology, earth awaits to establish greetings. Instead, they are greeted with destruction of the space station, destructive raids upon strategic installations earthside, and demands for surrender. How humanity assesses the situation and unites to fight for it's survival manages to induce feelings of pride and global patriotism within the reader. The human characters are multi-national, multi-ethnic, and brilliantly develop a means to thwart and eventually repel the invasion. The human culture and method of attack is sufficiently different from that of the aliens to completely throw the alien's attack methodology askew. Using present, cutting-edge human technology (no warp drives, phasers, or non-existent futuristic weaponry), with space-shuttles, chemical rockets, and ingenuity born of desperation, the humans successfully repel the invasion. The alien technology, although superior, is also plausibly explained in such a manner that makes it understandible as to why they were able to be defeated. Again, the story is in the characters and their participation in the events that give structure and life to the story. The physical appearance of the aliens is both outlandish and surprising, and meshes well with the cultural aspects of the story. The story is involved, exciting, visual, an excellent read, and impossible to put down once started. If a movie could be made adhering strictly to the book and it's storyline and events, it would make Independence Day seem like a Dick and Jane cartoon. Counting the original Foundation trilogy as one, this book is one of my five (5) favorite science books, all time, ever. I recommend it to any science fiction fan, anytime
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
"Footfall" harkens back to the Science Fiction of the 1950's, with the President and the U.S. military dealing with godless Communists and equally godless aliens. A moving dot is discovered on astronomical plates and the evidence is clear: it is a spaceship from another galaxy far, far away. Attempts to contact the aliens are unsuccessful but as soon as they arrive at Earth their intentions become clear: they destroy the Soviet space station, the moon base and then every dam and major installation on the planet by raining down asteroids. To add insult to injury, when the aliens begin landing troops in Kansas, they look for all the world like elephants with trunks performing the function of hands. Now it is up to President of the United States David Coffey, Congressman Wesley T. Dawson of California, USAF astronaut Major General Edmund Gillespie and his sister-in-law Jeanette Crichton, the Director fo the Lenin Institute Academician Pavel Aleksandrovich Bondarev, the unemployed minstrel Harry Reddington, the captured alien Harpanet and several dozen other characters to save the Earth from the alien threat.
Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle have provided a good old-fashioned "pulp" story, where you go along for the ride. My only substantive complaint is that the Snouts, as the aliens are called for obvious reasons, have a convenient Achilles heel (or two) that allows Earth to have a fighting chance against a technologically superior enemy that REALLY controls the high ground. My favorite part is President relying on a group of Science Fiction writers for advice on how to deal with these strange visitors from another planet, which at least avoids the stereotype of the stupid military advisers just wanting to use nukes at the first opportunity. The "science" in "Footfall" is enough to fuel the story without becoming oppressive; the first time I read this novel I remember thinking it was just an excuse to find a story where launching an Orion was a plausible plot device. "Footfall" is not epic science fiction; it is just a fun read that takes us make to those thrilling days of yesteryear when BEM ruled.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2004
There is much good to be said about this work. First off, this is the only space invasion novel I know of that develops the aliens beyond evil little green men blowing up stuff. Niven and Pournelle create a fairly comprehensive and logical alien culture. They delve into their language, religion, war fighting, even breeding habits. Not only that, they manage to make you sympathize with the bad guys to some extent. Another nice aspect is the hard science approach. The alien equipment and its operation are rooted in fairly well established theory.

I couldnt give this book a 5 star rating though for most of the same reasons Aaron Lohr noted previously. To some extent I can rationalize the humans' rampant sexual habits as a way to contrast human habits with the alien seasonal breeding patterns. Its true, almost every human (married or otherwise) has at least one sexual liason. And it gets really distracting! Also, the sci-fi writer threat team is a pretty ridiculous touch of hubris. One point Aaron Lohr didnt touch on is all but two of the military characters are portrayed as being irrationally brave and/or unbelievably stupid. Ive met quite a few generals in my life and they dont act like the flag rank retards in this novel! Finally the last scene involving the US President is just flat out wrong. Wouldnt happen that way.

The blemishes in Footfall are numerous. But the good in the story outshines the problems.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on February 13, 2006
Not much to add that hasn't been said previuosly, but I'll try to add a new perspective.

Unlike Mote and Lucifer's Hammer, which pack most of the action in the middle section of the book and talk out their solutions to the end, Footfall continues the action throughtout...its outcome in doubt right up to the last paragraph.

Agree with previous reviewers:

The aliens are more real than the human characters and the attempt to portray sexual tension between the principal humans is not believable.

There is scarce description about what daily life is like in the world during 10 months of Fifthp occupation.

There are some credibility-stretching plot devices (like when L.A. residents Harry Red and Jeri Wilson encounter each other on a deserted Kansas highway; and Harry Red ending up on the Michael spaceship).

We meet characters who don't reappear for hundreds of pages.

Disagree with previous reviewers:

The first 200 pages set the scene and are necessary to the book.

The book is 581 pages. If that is too long for you I suggest The Hardy Boys stories.

The politics in the book may turn off some readers as some liberal sacred cows are skewered, but most fans of SF should enjoy this book. I rate Footfall below Lucifer's Hammer and The Mote In God's Eye, but not by much.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on March 18, 2004
Footfall is a novel about alien invasion by sci-fi vets Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. The begining of the book is rather slow and concerns itself with introducing most of the human characters. The pace of the book doesn't pick up until around page 200 when the aliens finally launch their attack.
The writing in this book is very well done and the pages seem to float by. The characters are both interesting and engaging (I love Harry Red). The science is well researched and sounds plausible. This is a great book to read if you are interested in exploring the possibility of intelligent life from other worlds and what their culture might be like.
If you have read any of Niven's other books you know that dreaming up alien civilizations is his speciality. On the down side the book seems to ignore certain sectors of society while focusing on others. I seriously doubt that following an alien invasion, the U.S. govt. wouldn't be hard pressed to maintain law and order in it's major cities.
Yet in the book, despite the dilapidated condition of the military, maintaining law and order doesn't seem to be much of an issue. The alien language is also a little daunting. This book desperately needs a glossary. Despite these glaring issues the book is a lot of fun to read, I highly recommend it.
P.S
The ending is superb !
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
"Footfall" is a big old potboiler of a "hard" science fiction novel, in which "hard" science fiction writers are among the heroes when aliens come to invade the earth.
The human characters are thinner than the science; sometimes it seems as if the humans are lifted from a '70s disaster movie to they crisscross each others' paths here to conveniently provide drama and unconvincing sexual tension.
It's the aliens and their culture who are the stars here. Niven and Pournelle create an alien race whose "inexplicable" behavior turns out to be perfectly logical, given how they think. And the humans, in turn, are at least as inexplicable to these elephant-like aliens. It's the difference in culture that creates inevitable war.
The book is sprinkled with pro-space program messages and maybe some conservative political messages, too, as well as cult hero-status for "hard" science fiction writers.
Its handling of human affairs, though, is weak. Many hundreds of millions of men, women and children die at the hands of these aliens, and we see little of the chaos, bloodshed, violence, suffering and pain that must result. Likewise, we see little of the reaction we'd expect (PANIC! FEAR!) among the survivors as they await an unknown fate and lose contact with relatives and friends in other places. People just calmly cope. (Could the same book have been written AFTER the L.A. riots, for example?)
The ending is neatly done: there's enough complexity and ambiguity in the final events that it's hard to say exactly which of the characters were "right" and which were "wrong." A denoument is entirely lacking, though. What happens next, and what challenges are faced after the war -- these things deserve at least a hint.
In sum, there are plenty of shortcomings in this ambitious novel. The people here don't ring entirely true, the science seems unrealistic(that's a helluva space ship construction program!), and the plot is peppered with too many coincidences. And some of the science is unavoidably dated, considering the book was written in the 1980s and set in the more recent past -- there never was a moon base built, for example, and the space shuttle Challenger (which flies again in "Footfall") regrettably didn't make it to the 1990s.
But "Footfall" is still a fun and exciting read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 7, 2010
This book starts out great, but about halfway through the mystery goes away and the unbelievable starts to take over.

Humanity discovers evidence of an Alien spaceship heading straight towards Earth. It ignores all attempts to communicate, and just keeps coming. Is it a Russian trick? Is it an American trick? The world doesn't know. Superpowers mobilize their armies, not to fight aliens but to fight each other. Typical human drama, and well done.

Of course, the aliens turn out to be hostile, and the story changes drastically. Suddenly we are brought into the alien minds and culture and given insight into how they function and think. It's very unique and cool stuff. A little too much of the alien language makes it's way to print, but that's OK, we get the idea. The idea of a herd-culture being confused and misled by the random individuality of the human race is nothing new in sci-fi, but it's realistic and done well here.

Unfortunately, then the un-interesting and too-numerous human characters show up and bog down the story.

Massive plot-holes and implausible scenarios begin to take over. The aliens invade Kansas, and the authors go to great lengths to explain just how ridiculous and unfrightening these aliens appear. It doesn't help sell the suspense when even the characters in the book are laughing at the "baby elephants".

The humans nuke kansas, and no one seems much bothered by this. No talk of fallout or the millions of Americans that must have died, it's just "yay we got em out!".

A completely annoying character named "Harry Red" is given way too much time in the middle. Everything he does is pointless and pretty much a waste of time. Imagine Randy Quaid from Independence Day, except taken seriously. If you read this book, do yourself a favor and skip anything with the words "harry red" or "enclave", as it just goes nowhere. Many other characters follow this pattern. The authors spend way too much time on exposition, then forget about them.

Finally, the humans build a theoretical and extremely massive "orion" spaceship, for no real reason that we can fathom. The aliens are shown to have complete control of space, and shoot down anything that we launch with pinpoint accuracy, yet our master plan is to build a giant spaceship from scratch using nuclear bombs for propulsion, and somehow this will not be shot down like everything else. Ok. So the big ship makes it into space and apparently has the controls of a corvette, since they can just steer past debris and attackers and head straight for the much more advanced alien mother ship.

Frankly, I was very disappointed by this book. It started off with a lot of promise, but becomes bogged down by it's own waste. The unique alien culture and perspective is the only thing I would recommend reading this for.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 21, 2005
I read this book because I'm getting back into sci-fi as an adult, after deserting it after junior high school. This book certainly had some flaws or strange holes in the plot. Among them:

-The Fithp language. As a previous reviewer wrote, all the unpronouceable by human voiceboxes Fithp words got tiresome.

-The "Hairy Red" character was certainly over the top, and probably useless. Let's see, a minstrel/biker befriends his Congressman....somewhat plausible. He then enters a top secret military base, becomes gopher to a General, a spacecraft welder, and then-hey!, let's send him into space!-not bloody likely.

-The impact of asteroid strikes on Earth. Transportation infrastructures have been decimated, months of cool rain follow after Footfall, Kansas is a radioactive wasteland, yet the book does little to convey anarchy, starvation, or splintering nations. Major Crichton frets the economy will disappear in a couple lines of text and the authors mention gas rationing, power shortages and the glories of greenhouses, but it seems life continues in a remarkably normal manner, considering what's happening.

-Project Archangel. In response to the Fithp attacks, the United States builds a fission pulse spacecraft (shades of Project Orion) to do battle with the Fithp. Just one. Granted, a larger project would have probably brought down a rain of meteors, but a species that can use asteroids to conceivably end life on Earth as we know it is brought to surrender by one space battleship? Sure. And I suppose one aircraft carrier would have won WW2 in the Pacific. I'm not an armchair general, but the Earth victory seemed a bit implausible.

But I still don't regret reading the book. There were no transporter beams, no hyperspace drives, no death rays above laser beams. Earth fought back with present day technology. The book made me wonder, "What would we do if aliens attacked?" The action does pick up towards the middle. I would recommend this book, even if it is plodding and cluttered in the beginning.
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