A comet streaks toward Earth at blinding speed. At first scientists say that we’ll have a brilliant view of an extraordinary site, a once in a lifetime chance to see and study one of the oldest pieces of our solar system. As it comes closer, the scientific community is fascinated by the event, never giving credence to those who think it may actually strike our fair planet.
When it does, few are prepared for the rapid succession of events that lead to the end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI). Severe earthquakes, endless saltwater rain, and the ever increasing cold that begins to cover the Earth are just part of the changes to come.
But what’s just as dramatic is the incredibly rapid deterioration of society. Functional skills are at a premium, possession becomes 100% of the “law”, and people are willing to do anything for a meal.
This is the premise of the cult classic Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.
The book begins by introducing quite a few characters before the calamity of the strike. We get a picture of this broad swath of individuals from Southern California – a documentary film producer, a Senator and his daughter, an inner city hoodlum, and quite a few others. Some evolve into main characters; others disappear without much fanfare. Nevertheless, the authors take the time to developer the characters and make them believable and independent. This takes a bit of time, perhaps the first 100 pages or so.
Once the strike happens, though, the pace of the book heightens. Polite and civil society falls apart as people are desperate to survive. The struggles are noteworthy and challenging – food, shelter, disease, renegades, and even cannibals.
The Niven and Pournelle certainly did their homework with not only the effects of a cataclysmic collision, but in the likely degradation of the survivors and the world in which they live.
I’ve read several TEOTWAWKI novels and this one ranks right up there with the best of them. I’d heard beforehand that this is the book by which the rest are compared. I’d agree. It’s definitely worth the read.
Read the book? What do you think?