Book Review: Lucifer’s Hammer

November 4, 2011

Book Reviews

lucifers hammer causing teotwawki

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.

lucifers hammer book

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? 

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21 Comments on “Book Review: Lucifer’s Hammer”

  1. Jarhead Survivor Says:

    One of my favorite books of all time!


  2. April Says:

    Definitely want to read. Thanks!


  3. warren Says:

    This was the first book in the prepper genre that I ever read and I nearly quit because of the first hundred pages. I toughed it out and found it to be OK but not the best in the genre I have read. I’d say read it because of tradition in the genre but read other similar books too


    • Joe Says:

      Thanks Warren. I’d agree about the first 100 pages.

      I’m curious. Was there specific shortcoming in the story that made it just OK? Or was it the writing style?

      What other books in that genre would you recommend?




  4. Mr Bill Says:

    This is the one that got me hooked. Others have said the first third of the book is hard to get through with lots of back story, but by the end you want more!!

    Great book, reread it every couple of years.


    • Joe Says:

      Yes, outstanding book! I’d already read several others from the genre before this one. This one, at least in my mind, sets the bar very high.


  5. dee Says:

    This was also a book I was given by a friend in the 80’s. Besides “Alas Babylon” It is also my favorite. Enjoyed it from the very first pages. Because of it , I continue to live my life as if I had little access to food, gas and energy. When we have rainy days it reminds me of the setting. Should be on every prepper’s reading list.


    • Joe Says:

      Laura’s read Alas Babylon already. It’s on my reading list but hasn’t made it to the top yet.


    • Laura Says:

      I agree that it’s a really good one. One of the first in the genre I read too.

      I am excited that there seem to be so many more good ones available now also. Alas, Babylon and Lucifer’s Hammer get credit for being some of the first, paving the way, and getting people to begin thinking.



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