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Publisher's Summary

They first appear as a series of dots on astronomical plates, heading from Saturn directly toward Earth. Since the ringed planet carries no life, scientists deduce the mysterious ship to be a visitor from another star. The world's frantic efforts to signal the aliens go unanswered. The first contact is hostile: the invaders blast a Soviet space station, seize the survivors, and then destroy every dam and installation on Earth with a hail of asteriods. Now the conquerors are descending on the American heartland, demanding servile surrender - or death for all humans.

©1986 Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle (P)2010 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

“Nobody does it better than Niven and Pournelle. I loved it!” (Tom Clancy)
"Rousing – the best of the genre.” (The New York Times Book Review)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall

Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle at Their Best

Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle have written a lot of books together, but for me this is their best! Footfall is a story that takes place in the 1980s when a hostile alien spaceship visits the earth; where dominating U.S. and Russian governments distrust each other. Larry and Jerry give you insight to the inner workings of U.S. and Russian governments as they prepare for this first alien encounter and possible war with each other. They also give you insight to the Aliens plans and politics as they make their approach Earth. I find Footfall to be one of the more believable stories that concerns first Alien contact with earth and how the people of Earth would react. For those Larry Niven fans; Footfall is OLD Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelleat their VERY best.

The narration of Footfall by Macleod Andrews is great. I first listened to Macleod listening to Sandman Slim and later purchased The Lock Artist; just to hear Macleod again. I was happy to hear Macleod on this recording of Footfall.

Footfall is hard science fiction at its best.

40 of 41 people found this review helpful

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Tedious and disorganized

Footfall was one of the most tedious science fiction book I've ever read... or listened to in this case. The book had way too many "main" characters, most of whom had no bearing on the outcome of the book. Some seemed completely pointless. The alien names were unnecessarily complex and having a section of the book describing their language and its construction seemed self indulgent (of the authors) and tedious.

The book suffered from uninteresting characters, a lack of coherent story line, pointless dialogue, and unbelievable events. The premise was interesting (alien invasion), but the execution was poor, with the book jumping from place to place for seemingly no reason... certainly not to advance the plot.

I give it two stars only because the narrator of the audio book (MacLeod Andrews) was simply spectacular. The man deserves a medal for pulling off the bizarre pronunciations and for making the aliens' speech very distinctive from the humans. His narration was the reason I was able to suffer through the book to the (disappointing) ending.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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My favorite sci-fi book

Classic Alien Invasion of Earth. It doesn't get much better. It was written 25 years ago, but nonetheless doesn't seem dated. Some reviewers disliked the narrator's performance and pronunciation of alien names and dialog. I can't DISAGREE more! Ok, a few sentences I rewound the recording to listen again, but maybe 2 or 3 times during the entire book. The narrator essentially read the names and dialog exactly the way I'd pictured it when I read the book years ago. I recommend this, I recommend Niven and Pournelle's "The Mote in God's Eye," and I also recommend another great alien invasion/first contact story: Michael Flynn's "Eifelheim." Not sure which is my favorite sci-fi book of all time: Footfall or Eifelheim.

18 of 19 people found this review helpful

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  • DJM
  • Franklin, TN USA
  • 07-17-10

A Keeper

Based on reviews so far, it looks like this is going to be one of those audios that you either love or hate. I love this book and this audio. In fact, I just finished reading it for the sixth or seventh time earlier this year and still purchased it on audio. I wasn't disappointed. It is classic Niven and Pournelle, and, I think, their best. It has an intelligent, engaging story line populated by believable characters. I don't find it to be a right wing rant. I do hear these two SF writers speaking with frustration over what happened to the space program after Apollo. I disagree with their love for nuclear plants, but none of that detracts from the story line. And, it has one of the best space battle scenes ever written.

As for the narration, I thought it was excellent. I had no trouble understanding it and I'm frankly amazed that they found a reader willing to take it on. The invaders' names are bad enough: Pastempeh-Keph, Fathisteh-tulk, K'turfookrph etc. There are around twenty of those characters. But there is also the invaders' language that is sprinkled liberally through-out the novel which is just as tongue twisting. Then there are at least 30 important human characters, as well as a cast of twenty or so more. In some scenes, the narrator has to try and differentiate conversations among a group of ten or twelve humans, adult and children, men and women, as well as several male and female aliens. I'm willing to give him a pass if he has a problem making each voice in the scene distinctive enough.

I heartily recommend this audio version to those who love the book and to those who have never sampled it before. This is one I know I'll listen to again.

27 of 29 people found this review helpful

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Science Fiction Writers in a TR7 Save the Day

I tried very hard to like this book. I listened to over 10 hours of this day long book (24 and a half hours) After about six hours I went to check the reviews to see if they said things like, well it started slow, but then really pick up. Nobody said that. They either loved it from start to finish or hated it.

I liked the idea of Alien Elephants, although elephants skydiving seem a little stupid, but not as stupid as the government turning to Science Fiction Writers to save the day. That seemed more like a Niven/Pournelle wet dream.

I think N&P tried to hard to build characters and several of them at that. The problem being, that is not there strong suit. I found I could not care about any of the characters. If they would have narrowed it down to a couple of humans and a alien invader it might have been possible, they just bit off more then they could chew.

It was seven hours into the book before we even hear from the aliens. It was about eight hours into the book before they even invaded.

Narrator didn't help much, he was not very good.

15 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Charles
  • Albany, OR, United States
  • 01-12-11

Fantastic work. Must listen, and about Andrews...

... Most of the complaints about this reading seem to focus on Andrews' reading of the books. Personally, I found the reading very well done. I like to get a sense of the different characters, and I found Andrews did a fantastic job of this. Some complained about the accents of the Aliens or the Russians, but I really found it well done, if only a bit over the top. It helped me keep the relatively long cast separate. On to the book.

I really enjoyed two of Niven/Pournelle's other famous works - Ringworld and the Mote in God's Eye. Particularly in the case of Mote, I enjoyed having some real *alien* aliens. The guys do a great job again in the case of Footfall. The aliens feel pretty fleshed out, and have a reasonably detailed culture.

The humans are a bit more one dimensional, but still interesting. Again, the cast is pretty large, and in the beginnings of the book it's a bit difficult to keep them straight, but they all end up meshing well, and serving to add interest and richness to the story.

Anyway, interesting book, and worth a shot. If you really like the performance aspect of the reading, than likely the reader won't bug you. If you prefer a more straight reading, then I'd probably check out something else.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Phillip
  • Lino Lakes, MN, United States
  • 11-10-12

This is my all time favorite book.

Niven and Pournelle are a dream team. They should really work together more. And Footfall should be made into a four part miniseries.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • DocJim
  • Low Prices,Great Service - Please Keep it that way!
  • 10-22-12

A masterful work from 1986 now on audio!

In 1986, or a year or two later, I read this book. I loved it then. But life goes on and even the title escaped my memory. I started listening to it, and low and behold some parts were familiar and other parts forgotten.

The story is timeless, even though it was written in the time of the USSR. I enjoyed it so much I must admit I stayed up WAY too late listening to the book. It is a long book (three parts of 8+ hours, or 24 hours of listening) and it can be hard to just quit listening.

The ending is dramatic and satisfactory. It must be hard for two Sci-Fi greats as Niven and Pournelle to cooperate on such a project, but is was a grand project very well done.

And it is a BARGAIN. 24hrs of listening for one credit! If you like Sci-Fi, this is one you should not miss. 35 years old and still a fantastic read - an ultimate classic.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • David
  • sandy hook, CT, United States
  • 07-09-10

classic Sci Fi

Larry and Jerry built a believable alien race and a believable human reaction to them. Well written and well read

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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No one to care about in this book. Weird pacing.

So, I'm working my way through all the top sci-fi classics, and I keep bumping into Larry Niven and his okay-ish novels.

My problem with Niven is that he has no clue how to write an interesting character. Throughout all of his novels I haven't been able to make myself care about any of them. That being said, it's hard to care about any plot if you don't have a stake in the outcome.

Footfall was one of those books I had to really work to get through. I was bored almost the entire time.

I found the pacing weird as well. How long did it take for this story to unfold? Months? Years? Decades? I'm not sure. I found the time transitions to be confusing, and I didn't like the book enough to sort it out.

Oh, and the narrator's alien voice was a bold choice... that annoyed the heck out of me. "A" for effort, "D-" for execution.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • John
  • 07-01-11

An effort to understand!

I was recommended this book to read but decided to get it from Audible, as I was doing some long road journeys and it would be most convenient to listen to it on my iPhone, however the narrator has used a very heavy accent, which makes listening in a car very hard work - I frequently had to rewind to understand the story.

4 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • David, Derbyshire
  • 09-13-17

Amazing Narration

The story was good, some characterisation was a little dated but the narration was amazing!

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  • Mr. M. J. Foster
  • 05-02-17

Loved it. Took me back to my youth.

A dated backdrop, but still an excellent space yarn. A very good speaker too. recommended.

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  • N. J. Kitchin
  • 10-17-16

Good story

Interesting book. Very well performed. I enjoyed it but it didn't have to be as long

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  • 06-10-16


Over of the great first contact novels. Niven and Pournelle at their creator best. . A classic. .