Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I just knocked this one off my top one-hundred novels of all time, but I did it with a heavy heart.
Memories of a novel sometimes simply don't live up to a re-read.
On the other hand, there are quite a few things about it that are still freaking fantastic, such as the science and the emotional impact of the comet strike. Most of the first third of the novel focused on the 70's modern society, with all the strange views common of that time, but that wasn't the most striking feature. I was humbled by the way they could turn so many flawed and normal people into an epic scene of pathos when they died.
I even had to set down the novel because the tears prevented me from reading through the meteor crashes or the tidal waves or the mud falling from the sky for weeks.
You know all those stupid apocalypse movies of the 90's? Yeah, this novel STILL does it better.
The rest of the novel was all about sheer survival for those who were left, and I was pleasantly reminded of Brin's The Postman that outdid this novel for the post-apocalypse rebuilding, but props should always be given to those who did it first.
"Give my children the lightning!"
It's a good rallying call. It's the future, scaled down to the bare minimum after trawling the dirt and praying to make it through one winter. It's a far cry from Heinlein's eggs or Clarke's magic. It's realistic, or some might say, pessimistic.
But what else can we say about this great-grandaddy of all dystopian futures? It's still a damn sight better than most that have come after, even considering the racism, possible return to slavery, the cannibalism, and the wholesale slaughter by mustard gas, not even mentioning the whole nuclear war between Russian and China.
I carried Dan Forrester in my heart ever since I read this the first time. He was the most tragic and glorious character of anyone. A second read doesn't really change my opinion.
I did carry one caveat, though. He should have saved Dune. Stories are just as important as scientific texts. I can only pray that later generations would carry it forward after conquering California and finding any intact libraries. Of course, this was written only a handful of years after Dune, so the authors hadn't realized the weight of the public's imagination by that time... but they did when it came to the commune filled with LoTR characters. :)
Niven and Pournelle really outdid themselves with this one. I went on to read the rest of Niven after plowing through this novel, but I never did read any of Pournelle's solo work. I still think that this novel was the best that either had written, even if I can't honestly say anything about Jerry's work.
Still a fantastic novel, regardless of it's faults. Anyone interested in dystopias really needs to read this one.
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