Lucifer's Hammer

infobox Book |
name = Lucifer's Hammer
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption = Cover of 1977 Fawcett paperback edition
author = Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = United States
language = English
series =
genre = Science fiction novel
publisher = Playboy Press/HarperCollins
release_date = 1977
english_release_date =
media_type = Print (Hardcover & Paperback)
pages = 494 pp
isbn = ISBN 0-872-23487-8
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"Lucifer's Hammer" is a post-apocalyptic science fiction novel by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, first published in 1977. It was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1978. A comic book adaptation was published by Innovation Comics in 1993.

Plot summary

The story details a cometary impact on Earth, the end of civilization, and the battle for the future. It encompasses the discovery of the comet, the LA social scene, and a cast of diverse characters whom fate seems to smile upon and allow to survive the massive cataclysm and the resulting tsunamis, plagues, famines and battles amongst scavengers and cannibals.

When the wealthy amateur astronomer Tim Hamner discovers a new comet, dubbed Hamner-Brown, it comes to the attention of documentary producer Harvey Randall, who does a television series on the subject. Political lobbying by California Senator Arthur Jellison eventually gets a joint Apollo-Soyuz (docking with the second flight worthy Skylab) mission into space to study the comet, dubbed "The Hammer" by popular media, which is expected to pass close to the earth. Despite assurances by the scientific community that a collision with Earth is extremely unlikely, the public, fueled by religious fervor by the evangelist Henry Armitage, begins to hoard food and supplies in anticipation.

Eventually, to the shock of scientists at JPL in Pasadena who could not track the trajectory accurately enough due to the comet's constant outgassing, the Hammer does fall, breaking up into several smaller comets that strike around the world with devastating results, striking parts of Europe, Africa, the Gulf of Mexico, and both the Pacific and Atlantic. The strikes cause volcanoes and earthquakes along all major fault-lines in California, including the San Andreas fault, heavily damaging the region. Several of the fragments land in the ocean and further damage is caused by the resulting tsunamis, which destroy several major coastal cities around the world, including Los Angeles. As the survivors contend with weeks of non-stop rain, flooding destroys practically every dam and levee, leaving a search for food a top survival priority. Civilization crumbles as people use the few remaining weapons to protect themselves from each other.

After "Hammerfall," Hamner goes from being a meek, affluent astronomer to a determined survivor with his new wife Eileen. Randall shows true leadership abilities under fire, and Jellison becomes a type of lord in his ranch stronghold, presiding over a small population of survivors who wish to retain civilization. Jellison's stronghold is located slightly east or northeast of Springville, California, where the North Fork and the Middle Fork of the Tule River meet. West of this stronghold, the city of Porterville has been destroyed by the collapse of the dam at Lake Success. Indeed, the collapse of dams throughout California has turned the former San Joaquin Valley into a swampy lake. Other small enclaves of civilization exist in this area, until a band of cannibalistic zealots led by Reverend Armitage and an army of heavily armed soldiers begin a rampage through the area, culminating in a series of battles with the inhabitants of Jellison's stronghold.

Literary significance and reception

Judith T Yamamoto in her review for the Library Journal said that the novel was full of "good, solid science, a gigantic but well developed and coordinated cast of characters, and about a megaton of suspenseful excitement." Her one negative comment was that the pro-technology pitch might turn off some readers but "all in all it's a good book, if not a great one." [cite journal|last=Yamamoto|first= Judith T.|date=1977-07-01|title=Lucifer's Hammer (Book Review)|journal=Library Journal|volume=Vol. 102|issue= Issue 13|pages=p1528|issn=03630277]

See also

* "The Hammer of God" - novel by Arthur C. Clarke about an asteroid strike


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