The End is Nigh!
While there are a plethora of books and movies forecasting the end of the world in a variety of different fashions – anyone seen Independence Day perchance? – the Science in “science fiction” if often lacking and while it would be great to insert a virus into an alien computer core, thereby averting the destruction of humanity, somehow, I just don’t think that it’s going to happen!
Lucifer’s Hammer is the story of the Hamner-Brown comet, discovered by a pair of amateur astronomers (by the way in case you don’t believe that amateur astronomers sometimes discover things like this – check outthis link and this one and for something that happened quite recently this one too!). While still quite a distance out from Earth, it is on a trajectory to pass quite close and although the Scientific community at large are adamant that it will not hit, there is enough doubt that a charismatic and zealous fundamentalist preacher is able to whip up a large amount of hysteria in the US.
Gradually as the comet continues to come closer and closer, the probability of it’s impacting the Earth decreases and even up until the moment of actual impact, there is uncertainty remaining about whether or not it will impact the Earth. Even a joint Apollo-Soyuz mission sent into space to study the comet, now dubbed “The Hammer” by popular media, is unable to confirm or refute its potential collision with earth. The comet does fall, and lands in pieces in various parts of the world with a devastating effect.
Cities disappear overnight and flooding is rampant with Tsunamis hitting all the coastal cities and weeks of nonstop rain destroying all the crops and foodstuffs. Food is at a premium and people are forced to scavenge for survival with Civilization itself falling apart at the seams! However this is actually where the story picks up!
In a similar vein to The Postman (by David Brin) humanity sets back upon the long road to recovery but factors are in play that are determined to reverse this. The battle between the forces of civilization and anarchy has begun and only time will tell who will win.
As mentioned previously there actually is some science in this book and nothing in it is too farfetched at all. It’s a really believable read and while I’d like to hope that humanity as a whole would act better to itself in times of strife and tragedy, unfortunately natural disasters like the Haiti Earthquake show that there are always a selfish few who think about themselves first. One point though – if there was ever an argument to get off the Earth and start exploring/colonizing space this is it. All of our “eggs” are in one very fragile basket and its imperative for all of us to get out there!
Character Growth & Development – 3/5
Perhaps a bit too black and white with regards to the heroes and villains of this piece but overall, the characters themselves are believable and the way that they acted/reacted to the changing situations was well explored and thought out.
Story Growth & Development – 4/5
Unfortunately the scenario presented is a bit too real and believable. It would be great to have Bruce Willis fly up and destroy the asteroid in space, but considering how successful NASA has been on many less ambitious projects this is unlikely to happen either. The honest truth is that if a comet or asteroid similar to the one proposed ever did materialize in our future (which to some extent is inevitable) … barring a miracle, this book could turn out to be historical fiction vs. science fiction. L
Overall Rating – 7/10
If you like your scifi with a bit of real “science” and if you like reading about the end of the world … you’ll love this book! Give it a shot. Niven & Pournelle are excellent authors and know how to craft a yarn amazingly well.