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Nothing says "I Love You, Dear" like screaming lower back pain!

Sometimes Wrong but rarely in doubt!

30 January 2009

Lucifer's Hammer

Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
ISBN 0-872-23487-8
Rating: Buy, Hardcover, New

Another out of print book review, however in this case the kind people at WebScriptions have the ebook available either singly or as part of a bundle of books by Jerry Pournelle.

How good is this book?

Well, I bought the book about twenty-five years ago just a year or so before Niven and Pournelle released Footfall. Originally released in 1977 I picked up a hardcover copy in 1983 or 1984 in a used bookstore. I have to handle it gingerly now because it's falling apart. I believe I've mentioned re-reading books and staving off bankruptcy in a prior review.

I recently purchased an electronic copy, which Mrs. Bugbear likes since it means fewer bookshelves around the house. I don't understand her objections to bookshelves. Three bookshelves in the master bedroom isn't excessive, is it? One bookshelf in the kitchen, another in the front bedroom and one bookshelf in little Miss Bugbear's room just nicely rounds out the home decor. We even have cookbooks on the bookshelf in the kitchen, one whole shelf just for cookbooks!

And Mrs. Bugbear thinks bibliophilia is some sort of problem.

On to the review, with the familiar spoiler warning. My reviews aren't intended to give a long plot summary just a bare bones of what the book is about without making it unnecessary to actually read the book.

Lucifer's Hammer is a great yarn about the events leading up to and following a comet striking the earth. Niven and Pournelle do a credible job of extrapolating the societal effects of a comet striking the earth (more or less total destruction). Lucifer's Hammer is more like Deep Impact (1998) than Armageddon (1998) in that the book is a fairly thoughtful yarn rather than just action, action, action. Be forewarned there is a large cast of characters in this book and if you have trouble following that type of story then this book may not be for you. The growth of some the characters as they are cast into the aftermath of the comet's strike makes for some very good reading.

Lucifer's Hammer also exudes sound science, the setting is the LA area circa 1977 so that's to be expected. Like all of the collaborations between Niven and Pournelle I certainly find it to be a worthwhile read. I grew to enjoy the many characters and although slow in the first part before the comet strike, the action and suspense of the rest of the book draw the reader in. Throw in a dash of romance between a T.V. journalist, a senator's daughter and an astronaut and you've got a book with a broad base of appeal to Sci-Fi readers everywhere.

Okay so there's no romance between the living and the dead but that's not really Sci-Fi it's just sick. Not as disturbing as parts of Ghost (the book by Ringo, not the movie) but still just nauseating.

My good friend at Ante Aurorum Tenebrae posted a link to a listing of long awaited sequels, I read on Jerry Pournelle's blog that he and Niven are hoping for an offer on a sequel to Lucifer's Hammer. Thirty-two years and waiting, Niven and Pournelle might even exceed Mr. Heinlein's record. While I welcome the sequel as a standalone novel Lucifer's Hammer is a great read.

Don't just take my word for it, Lucifer's Hammer made the NY Times bestseller list (#2).

Speaking of Sequels:

  • Dr. Pournelle mentioned the sequel to Lucifer's Hammer in his blog yesterday.
  • For those fans of Jerry Pournelle he's also working on Mamelukes, a conclusion to the Janissaries series.
  • Escape from Hell (with Niven), a sequel to Inferno (1976), is coming out this year as well.
  • Larry Niven has published some Ringworld prequels with Edward M. Lerner; Fleet of Worlds and Juggler of Worlds.
Now I just have to finish drawing the mill work (cabinets) for the downstairs' bathroom. Mrs. Bugbear reluctantly consented to putting some shelves in beside the throne, guess I can store some more books there :-)


I saw a picture of the library in Dr. Pournelle's house and I'll be forever jealous :-(


  1. I seem to have a surplus of bookshelves. I think I have 6 bookshelves at my current apartment and another 13 at my folks basement in the country and that isn't enough for all of my books. Most of these are of the 24" wide by 6' high variety, with a few shorter or odder shapes thrown in. Even inventorying my library is a fearful prospect. Plus I loan regularly and I'm sure books have left the library that way. I think DVD's do that too, not so Mr. Bugbear?

    Anyway, I figure I'll need and entire house basement for my library. I may prune it some (mostly old reference books) in the months to come, but I just love books.

    As another trivia bit, at the end of February, I'm going to a gaming convention with Commander Phil Pournelle, USN (unless he got another ring when I wasn't looking). I'm actually bringing some figures and vehicles for one of his games. Phil is a very sharp guy (and a credit to his parents, his service, and his country).

    Jerry proved he was quite a nice man by helping me get in contact with Phil one time when I had lost touch when he changed postings.

    I've enjoyed the works of Pournelle and of Niven, both of whom I think of as masters of their art. Both are obviously very sharp fellows too. I look forward to more of their work.

    Now, I bought 3 bookcases recently to help move some of my books in from the country. Oddly, they've filled up with new books before this could occur. Maybe I too have the problem Ms. Bugbear has observed....

  2. I find that the pair of them (Niven and Pournelle) are generally quite a bit better as authors in collaboration than on their own. There are exceptions the Ringworld books for Niven and Falkenberg books for Pournelle.

  3. There's no such thing as a surplus of bookshelves; there may be iinsufficient building to house them in.

    Thanks for the reccomendation, BugBear. I read Lucifer's Hammer when it first came out, and a couple of times since. Mote in God's Eye is still my favorite, though.

  4. Laserlight:

    If you've read Inferno by Niven and Pournelle then be aware that Escape from Hell just came out. Not as good as Inferno but I still really enjoyed it. I'll have a review up today or tomorrow.


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