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332 of 346 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great story and not as racist as has been claimed
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...
Published on October 18, 2001 by Michael P. Clawson

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45 of 52 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Big One
This novel will be a tough one for faith-based people. The comet that destroys the earth is a starkly "random" event. One more orbit, one less piece of debris, and we could have had a miss. I enjoyed the science aspects of the book, which is unusual for me. Almost all the astronomy is clearly presented and easy to understand.
"Lucifer's Hammer" is the first...
Published on October 16, 2001 by sweetmolly


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332 of 346 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great story and not as racist as has been claimed, October 18, 2001
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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186 of 196 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant tale of desperation and hope. What a book!, January 19, 2001
This review is from: Lucifer's Hammer (Mass Market Paperback)
I just finished "Lucifer's Hammer," and, well, I'm impressed! Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle have done a wonderful job in weaving a tale of excitement, fear, devastation, fear, desperation, and hope. This is 5-star sci-fi all the way!
If all you read is the first 100 pages, however, you probably won't agree with that. You see, the first part of the book is a bit slow in getting moving, but that's because the authors introduce a whole string of characters that interact with one another as the story and the action unfolds. And once the action starts, it doesn't stop. In fact, it makes you want to store some food, some water, some other things...and get ready for what COULD happen.
As I started reading this book I thought to myself, this book has many similarities with the movie "Deep Impact." Was I ever wrong with that assumption! This book goes way beyond "Deep Impact." It goes beyond it in that this book is not so much about events surrounding a comet-earth collision as it is about the aftermath, and how people do or do not cope with that kind of calamity.
Imagine this...world-wide cataclysmic events wipe out the major governments on the planet -- national, state, and local governments collapse, and people are left to fend for themselves. What will they do for food, shelter, personal safety, information, etc.? It's a whole new ballgame out there! The kinds of challenges described in the book bring out the best in some people, the worst in others, and trapped in the middle of everything that's happening are the characters you'll come to know quite well.
The characters are, for the most part, believable, the plot development is rivetting, and the conclusion is satisfying.
Do good guys always finish first? Do they even survive? Read "Lucifer's Hammer" and find out -- if you dare...
The authors really did their homework on this one.
5+ stars all the way for feasible, believable sci-fi.
Good luck out there...
Alan Holyoak
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94 of 99 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Time to say goodnight ..., May 5, 2006
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This review is from: Lucifer's Hammer (Mass Market Paperback)
Stephen King's 'The Stand' was virus, Robert R. McCammon's 'Swan Song' was nuclear, Thomas Disch's 'The Genocides' was alien plant growth, Walter J. Williams 'The Rift' was earthquake; and 'Lucifer's Hammer' is annihilation by comet. Each of these books are 'must have's' for fans of Apocalypse Fiction.

The major protagonist is Tim Hamner, a rich-boy with nothing to do but indulge his fascination with the stars. Hamner, along with a young boy named Gavin Brown from Iowa, discover a comet heading towards earth. The comet, Hamner-Brown, soon becomes known as The Hammer, as scientists plot its course closer and closer to Earth's orbit.

Hamner makes acquaintance with Harvey Randall, a news reporter who wants to make a documentary series on the comet. Joining with them is Dr. Charles Sharps from the Jet Propulsion Laboratories, Senator Arthur Jellison and his daughter Maureen, Dr. Dan Forrester, an astronomy Phd and computer programmer, a team of astronauts, and a dedicated postal worker named Harry Newcombe.

The story centers around Los Angeles and the San Joaquin Valley, after pieces of the "calved" comet hit all across the world, causing first earthquakes and then a massive tidal wave to hit the Los Angeles basin. Senators, rich men, thieves and killers are suddenly made equal in the wake of Mother Nature. Rich and poor take on a whole new meaning in a society that suddenly has different values and different needs.

Senator Jellison owns a ranch in the foothills of the Sierras, and along with his neighbor George Christopher begins to form an aftermath society bent on survival at all costs.

The good points of 'Lucifer's Hammer' are the characters, the topography staying fairly true to form, the realism of many of the needs and behaviors of an abandoned society (especially the herding behavior) and the many points of view from all the different types of survivors.

The bad points would be some flat spots in the prose, some outdated notions (since the book was written in 1977) and too many circumstantial meetings.

All in all, this is a great book, and again, a must have for any fans of Apocalypse Fiction. Enjoy!
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45 of 52 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Big One, October 16, 2001
By 
sweetmolly (RICHMOND, VA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Lucifer's Hammer (Mass Market Paperback)
This novel will be a tough one for faith-based people. The comet that destroys the earth is a starkly "random" event. One more orbit, one less piece of debris, and we could have had a miss. I enjoyed the science aspects of the book, which is unusual for me. Almost all the astronomy is clearly presented and easy to understand.
"Lucifer's Hammer" is the first apocalyptic novel I have read that takes up famine as a major factor in surviving. It is explained convincingly and is horrific in its implications. The general behavior of the survivors (poor) seemed much more realistic to me than the God-like heroism in most such novels. Cannibalism would not be unusual at all, but it would probably be done in a clandestine way, everybody's "dirty little secret," not an article of faith, as depicted in the book. The horrendous geographical upheavals-earthquakes, tidal waves, and volcanic eruptions are handled expertly and realistically.
The start was slow and the setting of characters was haphazard. There were too many, and the similarity in names was confusing: Hardy, Harry, Harvey-and the two major females Maureen and Eileen-give me a break here! Some reviewers have painted the authors as racist, particularly objecting to a black leader flaunting cannibalism and discussions of "slaves" in the new world order. No one black, white, yellow or brown behaved with complete honor or integrity. It is realistic to imply that no one performs well when they are terrified, whatever their racial makeup. A good point was made when one character vehemently objected to the use of the word "slave," but agreed that "prisoners of war" would have no rights and would have to undertake the most menial and disagreeable tasks. Ah, what a difference a "word" makes!
The paperback copy I purchased (new) fell apart, so I now have a collection of unbound pages. Most irritating. I found the writing somewhat uneven, often the case where there are collaborators, rather than one author. Overall, "Lucifer's Hammer" is a rewarding read, clear in its intent, and often thought provoking.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why isn't THIS book a movie?, September 2, 2000
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This review is from: Lucifer's Hammer (Mass Market Paperback)
I'm 52 and I first started reading this book in 1984. Since that time I have re-read it many times. when ever I find a friend who hasn't read it I'd buy a copy at a used paperback store and give the copy to them. Lately I have been unable to find it anywhere. Now to see that it has been re-released I will be buying 2 copies, one to loan, and one to keep. This is the best "end-of-civilization" book ever written. It should be a primer for anyone trying to write anything called "Comet" or "Impact".
Keep in mind, for those of you who haven't had the pleasure of reading this book yet, there are a lot of players in the drama and it takes a while to introduce them all. So give the book time. When it takes off though make sure you don't have any plans because you won't be able to put the book down. I mean really!
Enjoy it. Read it again and again. It only gets better with time!
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars when the Hammer drops...kiss your a** goodbye!, January 23, 2006
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This review is from: Lucifer's Hammer (Mass Market Paperback)
This is a monstrous, massive novel about what happens when a comet slams into the earth. About 17 years ago I was saying to someone that I thought Stephen King's THE STAND was the best end-of-the-world book I'd ever read and then was recommended LUCIFER'S HAMMER. They weren't kidding. This book has some of the most jaw-droppingly awesome descriptions of worldwide destruction ever committed to paper. After watching the Boxing Day Tsunami wipe out 250,000 people and after witnessing the Drowning of New Orleans it is impossible to read this book without thinking of those recent disasters.

LUCIFER'S HAMMER is filled with memorable characters and an epic scale of destruction and struggle. It ranks among the top 3 epic post-apocalyptic novels alongside THE STAND and SWAN SONG. It has everything; its like the Mother of ALL Disaster stories wrapped around a war/adventure/struggle for survival tale with an army of cannibals as the last major villains. How can you beat that? Unlike THE STAND and SWAN SONG there are no fantastical elements to LUCIFER'S HAMMER, just dirty, savage fighting for the scarcest of resources.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A realistic, apocalyptic account..., February 1, 2004
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This review is from: Lucifer's Hammer (Mass Market Paperback)
I first read Larry Niven's and Jerry Pournelle's apocalyptic novel "Lucifer's Hammer" when it was released in 1977. Raised on the popular disaster movies from this period (which undoubtedly inspired this book), I remembered thinking this epic novel would make a fantastic movie. I had the good fortune of re-reading this book again recently after many years and was pleasantly surprised, if not haunted, by how accurately the end of the world was portrayed. History, in many ways, has eeriely mirrored "Lucifer's Hammer." From the Rodney King/LA riots to David Koresh to the 911 terrorist bombings, Niven and Pournelle have done an extraordinary job in creating an account of what just might happen if modern society was confronted with a complete end-of-the-world scenario. This book, while dated in many ways, has withstood the test of time.
A comet is discovered and as it comes closer to earth, it becomes apparent it may strike our planet. An American/Russian joint expedition is quickly sent into space so the comet can be studied as it passes. The first third of "Lucifer's Hammer" introduces 20-plus protagonists, developing their characters prior to the disaster. All of these characters have similar traits in that they cannot imagine the comet will hit the earth, but they make rudimentary preparations just in case. When the comet does indeed hit the earth in multiple places, causing gigantic tidal waves, earthquakes and destruction, "Lucifer's Hammer" follows these characters' lives as they attempt to survive in a society without law enforcement, without electricity, without adequate food. Some of the most exciting passages deals with the comet strike, witnessed from multiple angles though most memorably from the joint American/Russian spacecraft. The stunned astronauts shockingly view the disaster, the growing cloud cover, the tidal waves and a nuclear war which erupts between China and Russia.
As pandemonium strikes, these characters do whatever they can to survive. Cars are stolen, people are shot, and everyone scrambles for high ground as the tidal waves and rain drown everything in sight. The final third of the book deals with the pockets of civilization that slowly form. Small strongholds are built, roving groups resort to cannibalism, everyone looking for safety and food. Like castles in the Middle Ages, these groups form warrior-like bonds, with leaders forced to make tough decisions, fighting off stragglers and armies.
Much of the criticism of "Lucifer's Hammer" has dealt with its portrayal of black people, most notably that of Alim Nassor. A former Black Panther and a full-time thief, he gathers his friends together after the comet strike, adorned in a full-length mink coat, spouting ghetto slang and doing whatever he can to survive. He bonds with a band of cannibals, eventually led by a Jim Jones-like quack. They begin sweeping the countryside, raiding, looting and murdering. Granted, it's a bit uncomfortable reading these passages, as society has not only become a huge race war, but a class war. The stronghold they eventually lay siege to is made up almost entirely of caucasin residents, educated, wealthy and determined to survive.
When attempting to understand human culture, all one has to do is view a normal high school cafeteria. The pockets are abundantly clear as people bond by class, by status, by culture and by race. If earth was faced with the kind of disaster so realistically portrayed in "Lucifer's Hammer," undoubtedly pockets of survivors would form in such a fashion. When there is no food, people will begin to kill for it. The groups they bond with would be people of similar race, similar class and similar status. In today's politically-correct society, it is uncomfortable reading a book like "Lucifer's Hammer." But there is not a doubt in my mind the wars which take place in this book would indeed happen.
A scary, fascinating work, "Lucifer's Hammer" has remained in print for many years because of its uncomfortable realism. It is not a perfect work, with stilted dialogue and a few too many characters introduced and in many ways forgotten, but it is one of the finest of the apocalyptic genre.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Lucifer's Hammer" a full-impact tale of the Apocalypse, June 12, 2001
By 
phimseto (Chestnut Hill, MA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Lucifer's Hammer (Mass Market Paperback)
Maybe it was seeing the compelling original cover art for Stephen King's "The Stand" in my parent's book collection when I was five. Maybe it was the siren tests of the local fire station that I somehow always associated with nuclear war. Maybe it was all those old rusty yellow signs I saw on buildings in NYC, with the radiation symbol and one word "Shelter". Maybe it was even watching Jan-Michael Vincent and George Peppard ham around my TV screen in "Damnation Alley". Maybe it was all those reasons, but growing up I always had a fascination with "End of the World" stories. For years, I have read "The Stand" again and again. I bought World War III novels right and left, reading them all. I have watched classics like "The Road Warrior" and "The Day After" and bad ones like "The Ultimate Warrior" and "Ravengers". Hell, I've even made up a couple of listmania lists on the topic, and it was in researching them that I came across "Lucifer's Hammer".
How I managed to miss this book for all these years is quite beyond me. The book, though, is a pleasant discovery and a complete revelation. Written by science fiction greats Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, it is a fantastic and fantastically ambitious novel about (obviously enough, if you haven't been skimming this review) the end of the world. More than that, it is a page turner, possessing that magical "je ne sais pas" quality that makes bands into legends, actors into stars, and books into pop culture. As surely as a John Grisham novel or Tom Clancy techno-thriller, "Lucifer's Hammer" compels the reader onward, heedless of time, hunger, or any constraint that would dare suggest putting down the book.
The "Hammer" is a comet, delivering the one type of cataclysmic destruction we could reasonably expect to face in our lives. A key trick to the novel is the sense of inexorable, unavoidable doom. Up to the strike (and even beyond), there are a number of comet asides, passages that describe the roiling journey of the comet to its date with destiny and beyond. While man built the pyramids, invented the Printing Press, fought World Wars, the comet in its various stages of travel is described, rendering puny and insignificant that which we call our history. When the "Hammer" falls, no detail is spared in portraying the full scope of the horror unfolding.
I've always felt "end of the world" fiction has fascinated the general population for a couple of reasons. We certainly live in an age where it could happen in an instant, but also because (like a moth to a flame) we are curiously drawn to something so vast and alien, it is beyond our ability to grasp. These works offer us a small glimpse and insight into the concept of "global holocaust". In this respect, "Lucifer's Hammer" is truly one of the giants in this genre. It is bleaker than Stephen King's "The Stand", which had at least the assurance that God did exist, but "Lucifer's Hammer" is not without its version of hope either. Faced with annihilation, Niven and Pournelle have a complete cast of fleshed-out and well-written characters whose triumphs and defeats we don't just experience, we feel. There is no promise of victory or survival for these characters, but we empathize with their struggle to not simply pass on without a fight.
"Lucifer's Hammer" hits home as a believable work of what might be, and as a meticulously crafted piece of writing. It is well worth a purchase for science fiction and general fiction readers alike.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic (despite ending), January 23, 2001
By 
Brent Shelton (Los Angeles, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lucifer's Hammer (Mass Market Paperback)
Have to join the group of voices here stating that this is an excellent "end-of-the-world" tale. The characters are fairly well developed and the action is well paced. I especially liked the chapter of "snapshots" of what happened when the comet hit and the italized asides throughout the book that described geographical and political results of the impact. These details are what draws one into the story and helps you visualize the magnitude and scope of such a disaster. (While not profound, I first read this book when I was in high school and one of the images that had stuck in my mind for over 20 years was that of Gil trying to ride out the tidal wave that hit Los Angeles.) In fact it was that tease of a memory that made me look in the bookstores for Lucifer's Hammer so I could re-read it again. I would have rated the book 5 stars exept for the last 3 pages. It really feels like after building up to a climax that Niven and Pournelle had never really agreed on who was going to write the conclusion.....and the book ends quite abruptly with a really unsatisfactory summary. I would have preferred that they added an additional 50 pages to flesh out was what discussed in these 3 pages (......maybe some year a sequel?) All in all, despite my personal complaint about the ending, a good read that I would highly recommend.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Disaster fiction at its finest., September 9, 2004
By 
James W. Van Scoyoc (Los Angeles, California United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lucifer's Hammer (Mass Market Paperback)
What if civilization were destroyed by a comet?

Humankind has been essentially modern, physically, for 100,000 years, so who's to say there have not been many ages of civilization in the past, each completely destroyed by a comet impact? Perhaps such events could have been the origin of the fear and superstition with which comets were regarded by our ancestors.

These are typical of the thoughts that keep me awake at night, since reading this book. It's compellingly written, with the transitional breakdown of all orderly society described in heartbreaking detail.

In response to the reviewer who objected to the idea of the nuclear power plant being revived, when there must have been umpteen coal-fired plants around that were presumably less hazardous, the explanation is simple. The coal plants need ontinuous inflows of coal, requiring roads, trucks, trains, and transport fuel. A nuclear plant can probably store years worth of fuel onsite at any given time.
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Lucifer's Hammer
Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven (Mass Market Paperback - May 12, 1985)
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