Genre: Adult, Sci-fi Apocalypse
SciFi Element: Comet landing
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Audiobook review, copy purchased from

In my quest for all things apocalyptic my Google searches gave me a few lists of best Apocalypse books of all times — LUCIFER’S HAMMER was 9 times out of 10 on those lists. While I can’t say that this would be on my top ten list, the book was quite epic, though it’s length did a number on me.

First published in 1977, LUCIFER’S HAMMER is the story of a comet and the almost total destruction of Earth. The novel covers a broad range of characters, their lives before “Hammer Fall” and then their trials of survival subsequently after. The beginning of the novel is a coverage of the discovery of the comet by millionaire Tim Hamner and the coverage of the comet by documentary filmmaker Harvey Randall. The general population is of an opinion that the comet will not hit the Earth and that they will just be treated to a glorious show, much like Hailey’s comet. Yet, as the comet nears Earth, astronomers start revising “impact” ratios and million to one odds start turning into one hundred to one. Even as these ratios are reduced the general population is not prepared when the comet does strike and it is mass hysteria when it hits. Earthquakes, tidal waves and even nuclear explosions riddle the Earth and the survivors are left with little to survive with. A new world emerges from the destruction and it is not one for the weak.

Definitely an epic apocalypse tale, LUCIFER’S HAMMER covers all the bases for an end-of-world novel, there is murder, mayhem, sex, stealing, cannibalism and rape. LUCIFER’S HAMMER does not paint a pretty or hopeful picture. Survivor’s band together to use one another, not to lend helping hands. This is another one that is not for the feint of heart. Everything is clearly described, not embellished or romantically portrayed. The one fault of this book I found was that it was just so very long. The comet doesn’t hit until nearly the middle of the book and by then you are rather fed up with these spoiled and pampered people that you just want the comet to hit and hopefully knock some sense into them. Which of course it does. What I did find remarkable was the intense explanation of events that would happen after the comet hit which is congruent with Niven’s usual style of scientifically explaining things. Though when you do get into these broad reaching and expansive science fiction novels you tend to lose contact with your characters, so I didn’t really connect with any of them. It was as if I was viewing things much like an omnipotent witness, I felt an overall pity for these creatures, yet no intense emotional reaction. Sort of like if you were reading a historical account, instead of a novel. Harvey Randall and Tim Hammner did stand out a bit, but I found they weren’t that likable of characters so I wasn’t as emotional with their journey. While from a mostly male POV, the men in this tale hardly stepped up to the plate and took control – the women actually showed more gumption. And while this gave my feminine ego a boost, we all want a strong man to step-up in times of need so I was rather disappointed in the flaccid response of the man male characters. 

Out of all of them I thought the astronauts were the best narrative, but their decision to land in California was off track a bit. Moved the plot along – but of all the destinations why would astronauts choose to land in California? I also found the 70s setting very interesting, it’s fun to read novels of this era, just to see how far we have come in just 30 years.

Overall a great and entertaining read. If you are interested in apocalypse type scenarios you should give this a try.

Adults only there are a lot of mature topics touched upon, sex, rape, violence, murder…you name it. Recommended for fans of science fiction, Larry Niven fans should enjoy and if you liked books like The Stand by Stephen King, Alas Bablyon, or novels by Arthur C. Clarke.


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