Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Reading Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

I have really mixed emotions about this book. The science of the comet-strike on earth is dead on (so to speak). And this was written well before 1994 when we watched in fascination as Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 smacked into Jupiter. That part is flawless. I also thought it was a great idea to have astronauts in space watching the entire thing--and trying to rejoin the world after the disaster.

And I realize it was written in the 70s and society was MUCH different then. For one, it was the swinging 70s, HIV/AIDS was completely unknown and sexual mores were very different. Feminism was still fragile. Ditto civil rights. Maybe that's why this book never felt comfortable to me.

Today, I don't think anyone would imagine that women would fold under the pressure of the apocalypse--at least not any more than many men would. So, gents, don't count on having a 16 year old girl scout come crawl into your sleeping bag, as happens to Gordie Vance in this novel. In fact, women are very good at planning, being patient enough to do the hard work required and can be pretty fierce when they need to be. I think of my grandmother who raised a bunch of kids in primitive conditions on the Canadian prairie--she really hated the sod hut that they started out in and without her hard labour, its doubtful whether the family would have survived.

And let's not even mention the cannibalism, shall we?

For my money, better versions of the end of the world can be found in The Earth Abides by George R. Stewart and/or Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank. No doubt there are newer ones that are also superior to this offering. I hope to get to them eventually.

I finished this because it was part of my reading project--all the classic sci-fi and fantasy on the NPR list from August 2011. But I must admit I am mystified as to why this novel made it onto that list.

(Read from February 25 to March 5, 2013)


  1. I have a feeling that part of those lists are about title recognition, not actual reading experience.

    1. Carol, I think that's exactly right. Loved your review of the book too.