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Hammerfall (The Gene Wars #1)

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  1,321 Ratings  ·  70 Reviews
One of the most renowned figures in science fiction, C.J. Cherryh has been enthralling audiences for nearly thirty years with rich and complex novels. Now at the peak of her career, this three-time Hugo Award winner launches her most ambitious work in decades, Hammerfall, part of a far-ranging series, The Gene Wars, set in an entirely new universe scarred by the most vicio ...more
ebook, 464 pages
Published March 17th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published 2001)
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Mary JL
Jun 04, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Any SF or fantasy fan
Recommended to Mary JL by: I am a fan of this author
Shelves: main-sf-fantasy
I'm back! Some health issues--and a volunteer project had delayed reviews. You didn't think you were going to get rid of me THAT easily, did you?:)
Marak had always known he was mad. since his sixth years he had heard voices in his head! "Marak! Marak! Marak!" and the compulsion to go east.

As the son of a chief his mother proected him and his father pretended to ignore it. Then, the secret came out. Marak's
Aug 16, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
Bedouins travelling on what is -obviously- camels repeatedly through the same desert doesn’t need 478 pages. Not even, if they do it 3 times. SciFi? Not so much.

Everybody who reads this book will be absolutely certain, Marak is not mad. From the very start. So, why insist, he’s battling insanity?

Some persons, who -obviously- got to this world on some kind of starship and manipulate the world via nanotech force the entire native population to a month-long trek through the desert? Why?

The Ila. To
Apr 04, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I found this a little disappointing, given the quality of the author's other books. While it started off well, with the intriguing mystery of the call that pulled the various disparate travellers across the desert, the explanations that were offered midway through the story were less than satisfactory.

Given the technological advances available to the visitors who presumably were able to ward off the planet wide catastrophes, why was it necessary to compel the planetary population to migrate acr
I expected to love this book. The first 130-odd pages flew by in what seemed an instant. Then it got repetetive. Expected revelations weren't. Paragraphs started to seem too similar to what I'd already read. Characters' relationships didn't change. The urgency was lost. I was sad. If you've never read Cherryh before, I would recommend starting with Cyteen or the Faded Sun trilogy for SF lovers, or the Fortress trilogy for fantasy lovers.
Elise Weber
Cherryh is a fantastic writer but this is not one of her best works. It started out well enough and drew me immediately into the mystery of the "mad", but once the answer to the riddle was delivered, the story fell apart. Despite pages and pages of desert danger it was really boring. I found myself skipping pages and pages of the book to get to the part that actually advanced the story line. Sadly these parts were limited to about 25% of the book.

I think she also missed opportunity to flesh out
Carolyn F.
This is the second sci-fi book I read where the journey (in this book journeys) went on way too long. Oh, the sand, and the water problems, and the vermin, and the wind, and the sand, and the water problems, and the vermin, and the wind, and so on. I know this book has been out for awhile but maybe just saying that the same thing happened for 30 days instead of giving us a blow-by-blow would have made this book better. The dialogue/action parts (except for the journeys) was good but the monotono ...more
Lindsay Stares
Jun 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Premise: Marak Trin is a madman. Like many, he tried to hide it - did successfully hide it for years. But finally the visions and the voices were too much, and when the Ila's men came rounding up the mad, his father the rebel leader surrendered him to the soldiers, and made a kind of peace with the Ila. All the mad are being brought across the desert to the holy city, for the Ila herself to judge. The Ila knows an opportunity when she sees one, and Marak will have a chance to solve the riddle of ...more
Robert Laird
For those that don't read sf, they might find the first 5-10 pages of most sf novels hard to deal with because most sf authors make assumptions about the reader. And, subsequently, most sf readers know to "hang in there" because soon enough it will start to make sense. Cherryh probably takes this assumption about the reader and extends it double or triple.

It really took a lot of "hang in there" to get to the point where I felt like I knew what was going on. Having finished the story, there is st
Claudia Putnam
Dec 17, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
I have enjoyed Cherryh in the past, but maybe I was more flexible back then. I am finding her less satisfying lately. I don't understand why these societies of hers must have, for example, slaves. Why can't the people who arrive in these feudal-ish places, desperate to save the world from destruction, take the short-cut of sending, say, sir questing person on some kind of flying machine with his message, instead of sending him all the way back the way he just came via camel-ish beast, whereupon ...more
Elisa Berry
Found her through Sargent's sci-fi collections. Cherryh is one of the few female hard/military sci-fi writers (see Downbelow Station). This one is not though and may even be considered more fantasy: on a desert planet, an unlikely group of people plagued with voices and visions of similar ilk, heading east to seek the source of their madness.

Cherryh's prose is unique, something I have found on the back of nearly every book of hers I pick up as well as reader reviews here and other book sites. I
Dec 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I adore C.J. Cherryh's Faded Sun Trilogy for its sparseness and portrayal of a plausible alien warrior culture. Hammerfall has many similarities, but is a much different work. It's like Walking Drum and Dune rolled into one story. In the book, Marak Trin Tain is a desert raider, and would be revolutionary, who finds himself in an unlikely alliance with his former nemesis as his madness barely allows him to function in the world. Both he and the God-Queen Ila are searching for the source of this ...more
Emotonal Reads
Aug 24, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This author lost me here, I was looking for Science fiction, but after that orgy in the desert,no thanks. What did any of the things that has happened sexually has to do with SCI FI?
Why is that the black woman always a barbarian, uncooth and demands to have another woman in bed with them. I mean really, I was truyly enjoying this book until that episode in the desert. I thought it was going to be the strong woman having her mans back once they got together, but spoils it with what was a menage.
Rick Decorie
Kept my attention throughout.
Gregg Wingo
Dec 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Cherryh's Gene Wars series is made up of "Hammerfall" and "Forge of Heaven". It is a universe updated due to scientific changes since the creation of her Alliance-Union construct, however, it is still very indebted to the original concepts of Stationer culture. What has changed is gene engineering and alien contact.

"Hammerfall" is basically a cross between Lawrence of Arabia, Dune, and the Exodus. The author explores a desert based culture with a deus ex machina embedded in the genetic substrate
Tj Kendon
Apr 22, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: CJ Cherryh fans.
Funny reading this after The Broken Sky, which features similar themes and world building. The world is interesting and the plot is sufficiently interesting, but the characterization is extremely wooden. I think it either needs more time, a dune scale epic, or a smaller focus with less of the eventual goal of the story sitting so far forward.
May 30, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'm about two thirds in the book, and I keep trying to finish it!... After all, this writer is supposed to be very good, so why do I find this book so boring?!... I may decide to forego the caravan trip, and choose an instant death from the vermines instead of suffering this endless repetition!
Honza Prchal
Fascinating concept. I'm not sure it always executes well. The characterization and world-building are, however, first rate, as usual, and it adds to one's understanding of The Alliance and The Union..
Larry Koester
Nov 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Seemed long, but a good story.
Sep 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Took me some time to read - all the traveling though the desert wore me out. But well written
Steve Wybourn
Great start but a third of the way in became repetitive and a little dull as a result.
Len Evans Jr
May 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I have just a few days ago finished this book for the 2nd time and I salute Ms. Cherryh for what I believe is some of her best work. She takes on an interesting challenge in a story which at it's core is science fiction, yet so much of the outer layers are pure fantasy as she explores a desert culture and environment rife with superstition, religion and intolerance. The nominal ruler of the very human population is more a god than a normal ruler; apparently long-lived in the extreme if not immor
Lis Carey
Jan 12, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: f-sf
This is sf written very much like a fantasy. The technology might as well be magic, for the extent to which Marak Trin Tain and his companions understand it. What it really is, of course, is nanotechnology, and spaceships, and tossing asteroids and comets around as needed. Only a small portion of this world, the Lahkt, is really habitable, and that's due mainly to nanotechnology, and conditions are still at best very harsh.

Marak and most of his companions are mad, or what is called mad on the La
Sep 16, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A novel of excellent world-painting as Cherryh's always are, although my predisposition toward single-biome planets may have made her lyrical, lengthy desert trek a quicker read than it was for others. The reviews that say this book is simply a zig-zag road trip are true, but it's an immersive road trip.

For a story essentially about two superhuman women warring with one another, the gender stuff is thorny: I was expecting the rather unbalanced polyamory after reading the reviews, but not the so
Aug 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The plot is one long race against time, so if ticking clocks drive you batty, this is not the book for you. Cherryh as always does an excellent job presenting her fictional culture and keeping everything from their point of view, with the dramatic irony that we, as readers, know there are aliens and nanotech and an asteroid hurtling toward the planet ("The Hammer will fall! A sphere strikes a sphere! It will hit in the bitter sea and the world will crack!")

C.J. Cherryh is my FAVORITE author, cav
Sep 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
I am a huge fan of C. J. Cherryh (only the truly.sci-fi and not fantasy) and am catching up with older titles I had missed in earlier years. This one won her a Hugo and I can see why. As with most of her works, I was pulled and addicted to this new world and intriguing characters, flipping pages to find out what happened next, even though you know all along what"s coming. In a most basic way it isn't science fiction because the characters don"t know of anything but their desert world, how to man ...more
Dec 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found it interesting to go from C.J. Cherryh's Morgaine Saga (written early in her career) to the relatively recent Hammerfall. The books feel similar enough that I can tell they were written by the same author, but the writing in Hammerfall is much better. C.J. Cherryh's style is simple and evocative. It's a real pleasure to read a book written by someone so skilled with words.

The story of Hammerfall is simple: our protagonist, Marak, is on a road trip. Against this background, we watch Mara
Rena McGee
I read Hammerfall when it first came out in hardback. Our Hero is Marak Trin Tain, a warrior who finds himself in a mass of people being herded to “the holy city.” He is one of a group of people who have been infected by a peculiar madness that “the Ila” the immortal ruler of the holy city finds interesting. Marak Trin Tain is also someone the Ila finds interesting, and despite the fact that Marak is the son of one of her enemies she puts him in charge of an expedition to discover the source of ...more
Feb 26, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an odd sort of book. Mostly it was about the world the author created and how it got that way. It mixed travelog, hard science fiction, together and stirred them together. The result was not altogether good. Part of the problem, I think, is Cherryh's style of storytelling; she plops you down in her environment and lets you figure it out as the story progresses. That's ok, but it takes some time and the reading is kind of boring and tedious while the reader catches up enough to know what ...more
George RR. Martin has spoiled me. This book has some pretty good characters, but it was almost unbearably slow. Here's why... (some spoilers). This book follows it's characters through the desert, and back again, and back again. There are no cuts through time at all, except the very last chapter which skips maybe 100 years. In other words, after three treks through the desert, they are finally going to reach their goal, and then suddenly it's ~100 years later. I feel like the author really cheat ...more
Jul 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Marak is mad, yet he is a warrior and experienced in the ways of the desert covering his planet. He has kept his madness a secret for all is life, but he is found out and betrayed by his very own father. He is forced to march in an endless caravan with the rest of the world’s mad to the Ila’s city of Oburan. Instead of death, Marak finds his destiny and the promise of life. But that comes with a cost and the Ila will see to his ruin if he fails her. She wants to know the secret of the madness an ...more
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Currently resident in Spokane, Washington, C.J. Cherryh has won four Hugos and is one of the best-selling and most critically acclaimed authors in the science fiction and fantasy field. She is the author of more than forty novels. Her hobbies include travel, photography, reef culture, Mariners baseball, and, a late passion, figure skating: she intends to compete in the adult USFSA track. She began ...more
More about C.J. Cherryh

Other books in the series

The Gene Wars (2 books)
  • Forge of Heaven (The Gene Wars, Book 2)