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on 13 October 2003
I read this book about six years ago and just had to give it a review. Have you seen the films Deep Impact, or maybe Armageddon? You know - big asteroid heading for Earth, eek, send out the astronauts to sort it out, near miss ending etc... Well what if the asteroid hits? What happens then? Read this and find out.
Proper riveting survival-against-the-odds type of stuff. Well researched and splendidly written. Buy it and read it.
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on 2 April 2013
Niven and Pournelle's 1977 book about the apocalyptic effects of a comet slung towards Earth by a rogue planet far out on the edges of the solar system suffers slightly from its age. The book was a bestseller and nominated for a Hugo, so it is hardly surprising that much of the content now seems very familiar. That is of course a backhanded compliment to Niven and Pournelle, whose workmanlike evocation of the mechanics of both the comet's approach to Earth and its effects when it arrives does make it all seem both real and intellectually terrifying - given that at some point in the future this will happen. However, on an emotional level the writing isn't of a standard to really twist the guts.

There is a cast of, well, scores if not hundreds, which early on gives the book a pleasingly epic feel. However, as the book moves to a conclusion, most of the threads converge in one geographical location, giving the final third an oddly low budget feel. Despite (just about) remembering the 70s, I struggled with the then contemporary setting, partly because the American cultural references weren't always clear to me. Worse, the rascist and sexist attitudes casually on display are rather disturbing - this isn't very long ago, but the best a strong, intelligent, independent female character can hope for is to have her own career as an office administrator. Black characters really get a raw deal, most of them ending up part of an army of cannibals.

Overall, it's an interesting exercise, but may seem over-familar and doesn't sparkle enough to stop its huge length dragging somewhat.
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on 4 February 2012
A comet is spotted heading towards Earth, and we follow a large cast of assorted characters as they prepare for a hit or near miss. Of course, most people expect the comet to miss the Earth, but it's obvious from the start to the reader that it won't.

The book is long but I didn't find it a chore to finish, and enjoyed all of it. The story includes a fairly lengthy build-up to the impact, the event itself and the short-term and mid-term aftermath. There are a LOT of characters, with some being described in more detail than others depending on their importance to the plot, but there is a handy list at the beginning of the book to help the reader keep track of who is who. This variety of characters allows us to see the event from lots of different perspectives, which I found interesting. The story is centred in and around the LA basin area, but scenes involving the crew of a space station and various officials does give some idea of conditions elsewhere in the US and abroad (but without much detail).

This is a good example of apocalyptic fiction. It covers all phases of the disaster, is well written and gives a feeling for what things could be like if a world-wide catstrophe were ever to happen.
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on 14 October 2014
Lucifer's Hammer
Classic disaster format. Not Sci-Fi. A diverse cast of well drawn characters; an enormous asteroid on a collision course with earth; a devastating impact; the fragmentation of society in the aftermath, all described in nail bitingly tense detail; some really good science content but above all, a great read.
It doesn't deliver on the emotional level as much as some other novels in the apocalyptic sub genre that I've read. For instance, I think it's more realistic than The Stand, by S King, which for me at least, falls down badly with the unconvincing final confrontation between good and evil and the pointless sacrifices but scores over the odds on characterisation and the writing; it's better written I think, overall than, On The Beach by Shute, but nowhere near as moving or gut wrenching!
That said, it delivers consistently, never stretches credulity, takes you face to face with the end of civilisation and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Spotted a few very small typos but otherwise, a good kindle copy
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on 5 January 2009
The book is about the effects of a comet hitting the earth and in particular the effects upon a varied group of individuals living in California. I have taken off one star for the amazingly slow start. I don't mind a decent build up but at 200 pages I was struggling to get through it. The attempts at suspense during this phase of the story fail as anyone reading the book knows the comet hits (it says so on the backcover!). Some of the characters preparations are interesting and I did look forward to the reactions of some of the characters but it took a while to get there.

Thankfully though the book really is pretty good once the comet hits. The descriptions of this and the natural disasters that follow are very good. There is then a part of the book which shows how the main characters coped and found saftey or didn't and again this is very good. I really felt for Tim Hamner when he got to the saftey of his observatory only to find it occupied by other survivors and for him to be refused entry. It was also a nice touch that they were not murders or maniacs but normal people who just wanted to survive and had to do what they were doing. Both Hamner and Randall's journey's through the flooded wasteland of California are suspense filled and scarey. Some characters disappear and are never heard from again during the novel and again I feel that this is realistic as many people would lose touch and never know what had happened to former friends.

The last section of the book focuses on "The Stronghold" which is a valley surrounded by high ridges that form a natural defence against nature and other groups. It is ran by Senator Jellison who had a Ranch House there. This part of the book is exciting although it did become a little more far fetched. The formation of the cannibal army is done well at first but it is later rushed when Armitage and his band join and this detracts from the realism. However the battle scenes between the Cannibals and the Stronghold are good and the fear and urge to run are well played out.

All in all this is a very good book. The start should have been shortened but otherwise it is very good. However I have taken another star of for some fairly pointless text (is the sex offender character at all necessary) and some dodgy racial sterotyping. There is only one black character in the book that is not a murderer, robber. general criminal or cannibal. In fact the cannibal army are started by a group of mostly black soldiers who kill their officer and start maruading the countryside who then join up with a group of all black criminals who were using the threat of the comet to rob rich white folk's houses. Far be it from me to doubt another reviewer but at 640 pages and with the first 3rd of the book being pretty slow I doubt that anyone has read the full thing in one night but stick with it through the first section as it does offer some rewards in the later sections.
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on 9 September 2015
Got this to replace a torn old paperback. An epic apocalyptic novel. The scene where the scientist compares the asteroid to ice cream is chilling (pun intended). A classic that has definitely influenced many books and movies since.
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on 1 June 2015
Avant-Garde Politician: Leaders for a New Epoch

Reading this book from the perspective of a philosophy of Homo sapiens, as presented in my most recent book, let me add some comments which differ from those of most other reviewers.

As distinct from much post-apocalypse fiction, Lucifer's Hammer presents a realistic view of violence becoming widespread after devastation, up to cannibalism, as well as the appearance of Messianic malignant prophets (pp. 460ff). Attention is given to accelerated maturation of teenagers in very stressful situations. And many other features of the book are quite realistic given that this is a science fiction novel.

This book is especially good on the requirements of high-quality leadership given catastrophic conditions and despair (e.g. pp. 409ff.), including their duty to provide hope, even if there is little and lies have to be told to followers (p. 410), while the leaders themselves have to be very realistic and act according to the rule "The only damned chance we've got, any of us has got, it to go on trying to act rationally" (p. 409).

And rationally when in charge of a community which hardly has food for surviving the coming dreadful winter requires from leaders the mental strength to make tragic choices, such as rejecting pleadings by families with small children to be admitted and thus condemning them to a harsh death. And tragic choices requiring outstanding leaders abound when efforts are made to rebuild civilizations while resources can hardly maintain a small portion of the survivors of a global calamity, in this book the impact of a large comet on earth.

Very appropriate are also the quotes opening chapters, picked from high-quality authors such as Heinlein, de Jouvenel and Vacca.

My only reservation concerns the length of the last part of the book dealing with war against a fanatic murderous coalition inspired by an armed prophet opposing efforts to rebuild science-based civilization. Shortening it by a third would, I think, have made this intelligent and well-written book even better.

But this is a minor point. I surely recommend this book for serious reading by students aspiring to become leaders, to be followed by thinking through what they would do if leading a hardly surviving community faced by desperate applicants and murderous enemies.

Professor Yehezkel Dror
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
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on 9 January 2016
Loved this book 40 years ago, strong characters, good science, wonderful imagination. Sad so little seems to be going the way these authors dreamed of. Recommend this to 12 years old and above. Some of the best science fiction written imho.
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on 13 July 2009
If you expect an Armegeddon type of book then you'll be disapointed. There is a lot of characterisation in the 1st 150 pages and you have to keep going back to the index of characters to remeber who they are. However the book does get going and it gives an indication of what the End of the World could be like.
People have complained about its portrayal of certain characters, but who cares, put yourself in their position.
Its a good baook.
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on 3 March 2011
I had had a long break from reading but I picked this up in my local post office as it seemed interesting but I didn't expect it to be amazing. When I began reading i was hooked and this book has got me right back into reading. I will remember this as the book that was so good it got me back into reading again. I read every day now. This book is excellent.

The book is very epic and well written and I was gripped from the beginning. There is a reason no movie was ever made of this because it would never be able to compete with the book. This story deals with the end of the world very well and realistic. A very interesting read.

I am very interested to read other books from the same authors. (God's eye the mote, Inferno et). Lucifer's Hammer is defiantly a book I will read again and again for years to come.
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