Lucifer's Hammer
November 6, 2022 12:13 PM - Subscribe

A Niven+Pournelle effort, with all the plusses and minuses that brings. Amazon description: A massive comet breaks apart and bombards the Earth, with catastrophic results: worldwide earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, thousand-foot tidal waves and seemingly endless rain… With civilization in ruins, individuals band together to survive and to build a new society.

There is almost always a very good reason not to read a Niven/Pournelle book that springs in some way from Niven+Pournelle voltronning together to form even more of a wackadoo-conservative jackass than either might be on their own. If you haven't read it, realize ahead of time that this is in full swing in Lucifer's Hammer, and it assumes the form of an army of cannibal brown people.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace (13 comments total)
I figured that if Armageddon and Deep Impact were getting posted to fanfare, this should too, mostly because this is a book where God smites people really well. Also the scene with the guy surfing the tsunami into LA, though I expect that's been spoiled by good video of what tsunami actually look like.

I have long thought that Lucifer's Hammer would make an excellent HBO-ish miniseries *IFF* the showrunners made the cannibal army a bunch of sad-sack magahats of the "Where the fuck is your chin?" variety. Before doing that, it would be important to lovingly wrap Pournelle's corpse in a long coil of wire so you could power California with him spinning in his grave.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 12:20 PM on November 6, 2022 [9 favorites]

omg I read this soooooo long ago. disaster is one of my fav genres despite most of its output being pretty poor in the quality department...
posted by supermedusa at 12:27 PM on November 6, 2022

Oh lord. I remember loving this when I was a teenager, but then I loved a lot of awful dreck back then. The scene that sticks in my mind - the way a graphic car crash would - is when one of the main characters hits his son (with an almost palpable sense of "finally, I get to hit children!") while giving him a lecture on why its good to hit children. Ie, the one upside of the apocalypse....
posted by Mogur at 1:45 PM on November 6, 2022

I'm still trying to locate the two reference books mentioned in the story. The newer versions are mostly pictures and illustrations, not the sort of depth that Pournelle hinted at in the book.
posted by Beholder at 2:44 PM on November 6, 2022

Oooohhhh it’s been ages since i read this - after my mother and brother read it. I remember being repelled-enthralled by the gender politics, even though I was maybe 12? But also engaged by the story- apocalypse fiction/rebuilding civilization is good fun.
It -would- make a really good show, with some aggressive scrubbing for gross values. I am not sure I am up for rereading this. But kinda want to?
posted by janell at 2:48 PM on November 6, 2022

I would have been perhaps thirteen years old when I read this, which was probably the last age at which I could enjoy it uncritically. And I did like it well enough. Engineers trying to keep the lights on seemed good to me.

It was also the early '80s, so the idea that an LA(?) gang of black people would form the core of a rampaging army threatening civilization didn't stand out as much as perhaps should have.

If you cut out all the racism, it might be OK but I doubt there's anything special to distinguish it from any other competent treatment of a post-apocalyptic band of survivors standing up to a militaristic faction. Might as well just watch Jericho again or play Fallout: New Las Vegas.
posted by mark k at 4:47 PM on November 6, 2022

I loved this book, and others by the pair, when I was younger. I didn't understand all the shittiness at the time, and have no desire to revisit them.

My primary memory of the book, though, is that I started reading it while we were on a family road trip. And my mother started reading it, and then my father, and they couldn't figure out a good way to share the paperback so they TORE IT INTO SEVERAL PIECES so we could each read it at the same time. It was horrifying to my young, book-loving self.

When they finished and I got the pieces back, I taped them all back together. It's still on my bookshelf, covered in tape.
posted by Gorgik at 8:16 PM on November 6, 2022 [2 favorites]

So, Gorgik... one started reading halfway through? This is a damn peculiar* approach to reading a novel. I can’t recall any book I have wanted to read so much that I have torn it to shreds to look at the scraps. Definitely not anything Larry Niven was involved with.

*One might even say a novel approach.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:16 AM on November 7, 2022

They did it again 10 or so years later with Footfall. This time it's a zillion brown people in India that get taken out.
posted by sevenless at 8:18 AM on November 7, 2022

Started trying to remember this and it just started blurring into The Mote in God's Eye.
posted by fleacircus at 11:02 AM on November 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

So, Gorgik... one started reading halfway through

I was halfway through, then someone else started (can't remember which one). After something...75-100 pages, they tore the book apart so I had my section, they had theirs, and the next person could start theirs.
posted by Gorgik at 7:55 PM on November 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

So, Gorgik... one started reading halfway through? This is a damn peculiar* approach to reading a novel. I can’t recall any book I have wanted to read so much that I have torn it to shreds to look at the scraps.

I had a lit professor who described this exact thing being done routinely when he was in the army. Fewer books than people who wanted to read them--even the non-readers were bored--so when they got a paperback it got shredded and passed around.

He would get ribbed a lot because he was the most serious reader; people would enjoy trying to commit on whether a book was "good" or not when he'd read, say, pages 133 to 196. (He wouldn't even know the genre, necessarily, since something that seemed like a melodramatic but fun novel could turn out to be a supposedly nonfiction biography of the lowest quality.)
posted by mark k at 9:31 PM on November 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

That's great. I presume people got in "play through" situations like golf, where if a fast reader started after a slow reader they'd have to negotiate some way to get past/through the slow person, or hell just leapfrog them.
posted by fleacircus at 4:25 AM on November 8, 2022

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