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Publisher's Summary

The gigantic comet had slammed into Earth, forging earthquakes a thousand times too powerful to measure on the Richter scale, tidal waves thousands of feet high. Cities were turned into oceans; oceans turned into steam. It was the beginning of a new Ice Age and the end of civilization.

But for the terrified men and women chance had saved, it was also the dawn of a new struggle for survival - a struggle more dangerous and challenging than any they had ever known....

©1985 Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Take your earthquakes, waterlogged condominiums, swarms of bugs, colliding airplanes, and flaming what-nots, wrap them up and they wouldn't match one page of Lucifer's Hammer for sweaty-palmed suspense." (Chicago Daily News)
"Massively entertaining." (Cleveland Plain-Dealer)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.1 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    2,212
  • 4 Stars
    1,987
  • 3 Stars
    903
  • 2 Stars
    232
  • 1 Stars
    115

Performance

  • 4.3 out of 5.0
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    1,843
  • 4 Stars
    1,413
  • 3 Stars
    507
  • 2 Stars
    97
  • 1 Stars
    39

Story

  • 4.2 out of 5.0
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  • 4 Stars
    1,276
  • 3 Stars
    624
  • 2 Stars
    170
  • 1 Stars
    69
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  • Overall

Period piece, what if a comet hit in '79

Good read, dated material, but still a great story. There's plenty of character development and the story moves nicely. A cannibal army always makes for some fun times!

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

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Well, it's better than "Armageddon"

There was a time when Larry Niven was one of my favorite authors. Of course, that time was when I was an immature SF geek who didn't read much else. Okay, I still think "Ringworld" was kind of awesome. And I have fond memories of some of his other collaborations with Jerry Pournelle, e.g. "Footfall" and "Oath of Fealty." But the last few I have read really unearthed things I didn't notice when I was younger, and this one, which was one of their early collaboration, really shows its age.

"Lucifer's Hammer" is fine plot-wise. In fact, I'd say Niven and Pournelle always do very well with the plots and the hard SF. This is an end-of-the-world post-apocalypse adventure, and I love those like candy. So I enjoyed it despite groaning every now and then at the authors', ah... issues.

Written in 1977, "Lucifer's Hammer" is your basic "comet strike devastates Planet Earth" scenario. The Hamner-Brown comet is spotted months away by a wealthy amateur astronomer, and as it approaches, excitement turns to apprehension as scientists keep revising the estimate of the odds of the comet striking Earth from "billions to one" to "millions to one" to "thousands to one," and... you get the idea. It is not exactly a spoiler to say that the comet does, in fact, strike the Earth — in fact, it fragments into pieces which land in massive strikes all over the globe. Pretty much every coastal area is wiped out, there are massive weather changes, tectonic shifts bring volcanoes to life, so yeah, pretty much the end of global civilization, as least for a few generations. It doesn't help that as soon as the strikes begin, the USSR and China launch nukes at each other. Thanks in large part to a joint US-Soviet space mission, with astronauts and cosmonauts watching the entire Armageddon playing out from orbit, they are able to prevent the US from launching and being targeted in return.

The remainder of the story takes place in California, where survivors in the San Joaquin valley go about preparing for the coming ice age and trying to rebuild what little civilization they can. Needless to say, this is complicated by both internal tensions and external threats from an army of anti-technology fanatics who practice ritual cannibalism, led by a mad doomsday preacher.

It's very exciting stuff, and also fairly realistic in how it approaches both the social and technological challenges of survival in a post-armageddon scenario.

So why only three stars? Well, for starters, there is Niven and Pournelle's usual problem with women. It was even worse in "The Mote in God's Eye," and I was (pleasantly) surprised that there was not a lot of gratuitous rape to spice up the fall of civilization, but the female characters all pretty much go into instant "Attach myself to the nearest alpha-male" mode, and one of the characters is even referred to (ironically, and with awareness of her role, which she does not particularly like) as the "Princess" because her Senator father is the current leader of the survivors, and whoever marries her will ensure the stability and succession of the dynasty. So there was a little bit of awareness there, and yeah, it was written in 1977, but still, one gets the distinct impression that when the Senator's aide reflects smugly to himself that one of the few good things about Hammerfall was that it put an end to "Women's lib," he's kind of speaking for the authors.

Oh, then there's the part about that cannibal army forming around a group of Black Nationalists who were going on a crime spree when the Hammer fell. The New Brotherhood Army eventually becomes a multi-racial, ostensibly egalitarian organization ("egalitarian" in the sense that anyone regardless of race who steps out of line gets killed and eaten), but the leaders are the Black Nationalists and a black former Army sergeant. Until a white preacher comes and gives them a cause - namely, fighting technology. So, let's recap: when the Hammer falls and ends civilization, white farmers, politicians, and engineers start rebuilding a stable community, while black people turn into rampaging cannibals taking orders from a white guy. Umm, did nobody see any Unfortunate Implications in this even in 1977? I suppose Niven and Pournelle's defense would be that not all of the New Brotherhood Army is black, and there is a black astronaut who's one of the good guys, and a few black farmers in the Stronghold are mentioned. Well, okay then.

There's also an awful lot of "neener-neener, how do you granola-crunching hippies like your 'natural living' now?" as the survivors of a former commune realize that gosh, they really did like having electricity and plumbing. Niven and Pournelle do this a lot, as in "Fallen Angels," where they spend the entire book poking at environmentalists and anti-space and anti-nuclear activists. In "Lucifer's Hammer," the only surviving nuclear power plant becomes potentially the salvation of civilization.

So, basically:

White people, nuclear power, and the space program = good.
Black people, religion, and women's lib: Bad.

I am being a little snarky here. The authors weren't quite as horribly axe-grinding as, say, certain authors of political thrillers or grimdark fantasy. But still, this is a book that you will enjoy if you like the premise and don't pay much attention to subtext, but will probably annoy you if you do notice things like ALL THE BLACK PEOPLE BECOME CANNIBALS!

Entertaining, suspenseful, a very good post-apocalyptic thriller for hard SF fans, and also slightly sexist and really (if unintentionally) racist.

37 of 48 people found this review helpful

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Decent book but VERY dated

Would you listen to Lucifer's Hammer again? Why?

I don't think I could do this book more than once. It's just too dated, and felt long and drawn out at times. In spite of it being a decent book.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Easily Harry the mail man. He provided some much needed humor and is a breath of fresh air in contrast to the dreary ambiance of the book.

What does Marc Vietor bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Probably the best part of this audio book was the reader.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

The book is very dreary and mellencholy once you get past the first 4 hrs prior to the Comet striking. You are pretty much looking at a post apocolyptic landscape filled with murder and cannibalism with the stark reality of even good people doing what they must to survive not just on a personal level but as a species. Having to turn away whole families at the front gate of a stronghold just because they know they don;t have enough resources to support them is pretty much condemning the family to die. But some great points are raised about the neccessity of certain occupations and skills sets and how valueable they become to the greater good and the commune itself.

Any additional comments?

Again, Solid book, the only issue i take with it is it really dated itself by incorporating the cold war mentality of anti-communism sentiment. They also had a bunch of hippies in their own commune, and made several refrences to the vietnam war and what amounts to the Black Panther movement of the sixties. Who were also conveniently the "Bad Guys". All that just made this feel very dated and it was hard to get past that for me.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Good story, with a short ending...

Post-apocalyptic stories have always been my favorites, and Lucifer's Hammer stands out from the rest. It's a bit of a slow starter but Larry Niven let's us get to know the characters before the action begins.

The characters are belivable, almost too human. Sometimes you wish they would act more like heroes than ordinary people, but it's more "real" this way.

Unfortunately the book ends just as it gets going, leaving me with a feeling of what next, and is there a next part?

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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An original and stiil one of the best!

Sure, it's a little dated now, but it's still a GREAT story. The narration is great and Niven and Pournelle wove a masterful tale. If anything seems familiar or overused it's because so many authors who came later have borrowed heavily from this masterful work.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Another great Niven / Pournelle Masterpiece

Being a big fan of Niven I have to admit there isn't much he writes that I don't love but this was very well done. Despite the long length, I never tired of it and even though I had read the story years ago, I still enjoyed the audio version as well as if it were new to me. Great job!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Jean
  • Denver, CO, USA
  • 02-11-10

An old favorite that's still relevant

I've read Lucifer's Hammer a couple of times, and loved it so much I wanted to try the audiobook. It was just as compelling, electrifying, and thought provoking as ever. Given the state of the world today, this is a book that could some day save your life.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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If You Flush Your Goldfish...

Finally I got around to this one, and though I may have missed out on a real blockbuster back in '77, I have to say it was a gas reading this in 2013! Being a teenager in '77, it was like reliving those *unenlightened days*--hippies, women libbers, politically incorrect Popeye cartoons. What dates it now doesn't hurt the story at all, but rather makes it kind of kitschy and well worth going back. Just like all the dings and scratches give an antique its character--the 70's give this a great patina you couldn't get from a modern day apocalyptic tale. Not better or worse--just wonderfully different.With the limited gore, sex, and bad language, this is a good novel for even a young SF fan to pick up, and learn about where modern apocalyptic literature (including the current zombie culture) started. (I hope all those Doomsday Preppers have this one under their belts.) Long, but easy, steady-paced listening that is still entertaining and a little unsettling.

18 of 25 people found this review helpful

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Needlessly Long and A Little Bit Racist

What would have made Lucifer's Hammer better?

Condense it and take out needless dialog that added nothing to the story.

What was most disappointing about Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle ’s story?

I understand that one of the astronauts was Black but aside from him, all other Black characters were criminals and cannibals. During the early days of "Hammer Fall", the White folks were helping each other, planning and doing their best to politely survive. Meanwhile, the Black folks were killing and looting. REALLY? The White mailman tried to complete his route. The Senator created a sanctuary and tried to regain electricity to everyone in the valley. The Black folks stole everything that wasn't nailed down, went on a killing spree, and ate people. Then ultimately began following a lunatic preacher who wanted to blow up the power plant. SERIOUSLY? And the writers clearly know nothing about Black culture. NO ONE CALLS WHITE PEOPLE HONKY! Maybe if they actually spoke to Black people and stopped watching reruns of "The Jeffersons" they'd know this.

Which character – as performed by Marc Vietor – was your favorite?

There were too many characters and it was hard to keep track of each of them.

What character would you cut from Lucifer's Hammer?

Most of them.

Any additional comments?

If you have 24 hours to waste, read this book. Out of the whole book, I found maybe an hour of it entertaining.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Travis
  • Mountain View, OK, United States
  • 01-03-17

one of my favorite listens.

intriguing story. have listened to it several times and something new always catches my attention.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Overall
  • john
  • 05-05-12

Dated and slow

The advantage of a lot of sci-fi and fantasy is that, as it is set outside of it's own time, it usually dates well. This book however feels very much like a product of the early seventies and this is really apparent in the attitudes of the characters and the roles that women play. The pace is slow and the characters are not particularly interesting. After five hours of listening I decided that I didn't care if any of these people got squished by a comet and hit delete.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • English Country Life
  • 12-28-11

A classic

Arguably the best apocalyptic novel ever written. Set in the 70s but that only really affected a couple of scenes.

3 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Martin
  • 01-08-10

Much better than those that came after

It seems a storyline that was killed by Hollywood with some pretty poor movies. But this book is much more entertaining than those well known dodgy movies with similar storylines, I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing. It has been emulated many times since published in one way or another, but in the disaster survival setting this book follows, it is a very good entertaining story. - Was interested to see that Arthur C Clarke published a book 20 years later called "Gods Hammer" about a comet strike on earth - wonder if they are similar in other ways - would like to get that on Audible... Recommend if you like "end of civilisation" stories with bad guys and heroes.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Mo
  • 04-29-10

Predictable Disaster Story

A comet hits the earth and affects a diverse bunch of Californians. It all seemed a bit dated to me. It also seemed forever for the story to get going with the first part of the book really dragging. There's a whole chapter on mail getting delivered! Apart from that, if you like disaster stories, you may enjoy listening to a Californian apocalypse. I just didn't enjoy it that much.

3 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • swimmerpaul
  • 04-15-11

Lucifers Hammer

Very disappointed the story wonders all over the place the reader is American and just doesn't do it.

4 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Des
  • 07-07-10

Must read

This book was just brilliant - the stark realities of our fragile society............

2 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Corky
  • 10-22-14

Endless!

What disappointed you about Lucifer's Hammer?

Totally lost interest in the characters and plot.

Has Lucifer's Hammer put you off other books in this genre?

I would try a sample first next time

What aspect of Marc Vietor’s performance might you have changed?

He could only perform to the best of his ability with the content he was given.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Disappointment

Any additional comments?

Returned this book before i came to the end as i just could not have cared less what happens at the end.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Roderic
  • 12-06-13

Underwhelming characters but an OK story

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

Because the characterisation is fairly weak, one needs to read until the plot gets established before the book is entertaining.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful