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3.9 out of 5 stars
13
The Hammer of God
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 13 June 2013
Kali, a most appropriately named asteroid, is on a collision course with Earth and only the crew of the Goliath stands between the planet and devastation. The impact is projected to be no less catastrophic than that which wiped out the dinosaurs. Now, though, or at least in the 22nd century when this novel is set, man has set a foot into space and has the opportunity to save himself. Eyes on Earth are turned upwards to the Goliath, a science vessel that normally surveys Jupiter whose captain Robert Singh has spent so long in space, he is now unable to survive in the gravity of Earth.

If any of this sounds familiar, then you won't be surprised to hear that Stephen Spielberg optioned The Hammer of God, resulting in the movie Deep Impact. The differences, though, are many. This being an Arthur C. Clarke novel, much of the time is spent developing the background and history, not just to the asteroid Kali but also to the character of Robert Singh and the religious conflict on Earth that places the mission to save it in jeopardy.

Robert Singh's character brings such life to the novel. Aged about 70 when Goliath approaches the asteroid, we learn about the captain's early career, his first love, his children, his life on Earth and even his athletic career as a runner on the Moon (of all places). Likewise, we learn a little about the peculiar Chrislam, a fusion of Christianity and Islam, which has become so popular on Earth, although relatively ignored on the Moon and on Mars. But these are just glimpses, never more than that, and it's quite possible that, like me, you'll be left wanting much, much more.

The Hammer of God began life as a short story and this final version is still little more than that. Easily read in a day, we're not able to spend half as much time as we might like on potentially intriguing personalities, relationships and social and religious developments on Earth. Lots of questions are raised about technologies, beliefs and fears but few are answered. The cameo of Nobel winner Carlos Mendoza is fascinating and I would have loved more. Nevertheless, The Hammer of God is a fast and fun read, charting the mission to deflect the asteroid Kali from its course which is hellbent on Earth.
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on 3 April 2015
The book is in excellent condition, and arrived quickly after ordering. All of Arthur C. Clarkes' books are worth reading, but it is so long since I read them that I thought I would treat myself and buy as many as I could. Well. this book is one of the ones I decided to buy and it is well worth reading - in my humble opinion, that is. There are many more that I am going to get, over a period of time, but I am well on the way to having them during this year.
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on 3 May 2014
This is a classic AC Clarke story, builds slowly with some solid science behind it and with a few nice twists. Not one of his greats , but if you like Clarke you will enjoy this.
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on 6 March 2018
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on 15 December 2013
Ostensibly an asteroid-on-collision-course-with-Earth story, The Hammer of God - as Arthur C. Clarke's final solo novel, with only 3001 and various collaborations following - almost feels like a last hurrah; one final chance to chart a convincing and entertaining future history of the human race.

Clarke is one of the few genuinely authoritarian colossi of SF: when he tells you something, you believe it. So when he starts conjecturing in that wonderfully off-handed way of his ('[S]ince the collapse of communism and capitalism - now so long ago that both events seemed simultaneous...') you buy into it. He never has to work too hard at selling you anything, and here covers gigantic leaps of progress in dizzyingly few words to establish a background that seems tangible even when the 'core' story never quite takes flight.

As a piece of narrative, it doesn't really work. The first half arguably jettisons any semblance of plotting in favour of a fractured, journalistic approach that fills in gaps both necessary and thoroughly redundant. This is no bad thing, though, as there is no-one I would rather read on the subject of what might be, and by this relatively late stage in his career Clarke was a master at piling possibility on top of fact. It won't be to everyone's taste, and the perils faced once the plot kicks in will surprise no-one, but it's an overall vision that for me proved joy to bask in.

While not as magisterial as Rendezvous With Rama, nor a gorgeous as The Fountains Of Paradise, frankly what is? And while this Kindle edition also has an overly-high prevalence of scanning errors that can be a little distracting, anything Clarke wrote is worth reading, even if only to be amazed at the breadth of the man's vision. We shall not, as they say, see his like again...
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on 3 May 2013
I am a huge SciFi fan (Vance, Asimov, Clarke, Hamilton), but this just didn't do it for me. Perhaps at the time of writing it was the first in its kind, but the 'Killer Asteroid' story has been 'hammered' to death over the years by various movies and books.
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on 13 February 2013
Arthur C Clarke lives up to himself in this. It is a typical story, but he carries it off. Not bad at all
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 17 July 2014
This is one of Clarke's later works, and less well known than his classics from his vintage period during the late 1970s and through the 1980s but it ranks with his best. All his finest traits are on display - plausible and empathetic characters, a well-constructed plot and a scientific context that is technically viable yet also readily accessible to even the most scientifically ignorant (among the ranks of whom I immediately declare myself).

The novel is set in the late twenty-second century at a time when Earth has established colonies on Mars and beyond. Quite by chance, amateur astronomer Dr Angus Miller discovers a new asteroid moving through the far reaches of the solar system. Closer inspection shows that its path will put it on a collision course with Earth. Given its immense size it seems that the impact will be as catastrophic as that which caused the demise of the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago.

In recognition of its lethal potential the asteroid is name Kali, after the fierce, retributive Hindu goddess. Earth is not defenceless, though, and plans are brought into play to try to deflect Kali from its current course. Robert Singh, captain of the spaceship Goliath stationed at the Lagrange Point beyond Jupiter's orbit, is ordered to go to Kali, and attach a fission motor and huge supplies of fuel, with a view to nudging Kali off its current course. A deviation of even a few centimetres should be sufficient at that distance to push Kali far enough away from its lethal course and save the home planet.

This all sounds far too simple and straightforward, and there has to be a catch. Back on Earth religious fundamentalism rears its head, in the guise of Chrislam, a hybrid faith that had established a strong hold over millions of followers during the twenty-first century. Chrislamists see the threat posed by Kali as a divine sign - if it impacts with Earth and wreaks havoc, killing billions of people, then that will be the will of God, and his followers will join him in Heaven and enjoy his everlasting redemption. If, on the other hand, it passes safely by, then God will have intervened and shown his divine mercy.

Clarke gives us an engaging story embellished with touches of satire, comedy and emotion. All in all a heady mix, and Clarke shows how powerful and worthy science fiction can be, when crafted by a master.
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VINE VOICEon 13 March 2008
Clarke's last original stand alone novel tells the story of the attempt to deflect a massive asteroid from colliding with the Earth. It's a narrative that has since been used more than once in Hollywood movies, but Clarke's novel showcases his typically level-headed approach, with any drama resulting wholly from the scientific and mechanical problems faced and overcome by the heroes.

Clarke's prose is stripped back and minimal compared to most modern day SF authors, but this allows 'Hammer of God' to be a pacy read, and there are enough character moments for spaceship Captain Robert Singh to ensure the novel isn't entirely souless. Clarke also does well by providing a near future background that is intruiging, even if it isn't very plausable (none more so than the depressingly disproved speculation that American soldier's contact with religion in the Gulf War would result in a more harmonius future between Christianity and Islam.)

Good, solid, old-school science fiction.
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VINE VOICEon 7 September 2002
First off, the name 'The Hammer of God' in reference to an asteroid that could destroy mankind is evocative and a perfect tone-setter for Clarke's writing.
Once again Clarke manages to create genuine characters among the hi-tech of the future which manages to ground the book in a way that many modern sci-fi books lack.
The tone of the book is very much one of impending doom and Clarke switches between the doom of Earth and the immanent self-sacrifice of the members of Spaceguard. I'll admit I was surprised by what happens to the crew of Goliath at the end.
The story is driven by two things, the past and present of the Goliath's captain and the desperate efforts to avert the disaster. The captain, Robert Singh, leads an endearingly tragic and lonely life that is mirrored in the characters Heywood Flyod and Frank Poole from Clarke's Space Odyssey series.
Finally, my favourite part of the book are the various 'Encounters' which chronicle Earth's past meteor impacts and warn of future ones.
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