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3.92  ·  Rating details ·  15,016 ratings  ·  414 reviews
They first appear as a series of dots on astronomical plates, heading from Saturn directly toward Earth. Since the ringed planet carries no life, scientists deduce the mysterious ship to be a visitor from another star.

The world's frantic efforts to signal the aliens go unanswered. The first contact is hostile: the invaders blast a Soviet space station, seize the survivors,
Paperback, 524 pages
Published June 23rd 1997 by Del Rey (first published 1985)
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Brad Guy Niven and Pournelle were under a tight deadline when writing Footfall, and they had a preset page limit. 500 pages does not seem excessive in 2019, bu…moreNiven and Pournelle were under a tight deadline when writing Footfall, and they had a preset page limit. 500 pages does not seem excessive in 2019, but in 1985 it was considered a doorstop of a novel. As they drew toward the final act, they were running out of time and pages, and there was still so much story to tell. So in a huge rush of back-and-forth typing, they banged out the climax and brought it in at 495 pages. But there was no room for the denouement, and no time to edit the fat out of the first chapters to make room for it. Still, it worked well enough.(less)
Peter Tillman I haven't read either book in years, but the other book you might be thinking of is "Fallen Angels", by Niven & collabs, which does have some stuff re…moreI haven't read either book in years, but the other book you might be thinking of is "Fallen Angels", by Niven & collabs, which does have some stuff re SF writers in space.

If memory serves, Jerry Pournelle had at least some role in persuading Pres. Reagan to approve the Star Wars missile-defense. Which, if nothing else, scared the hell out of the Soviets.(less)

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Average rating 3.92  · 
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Henry Avila
Feb 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the vast reaches of the immeasurable cosmos, a tiny dot is traveling at immense speed in the background of the flickering lights, seen from the oblivious distant Earth, the unimaginable is arriving a small unimportant looking object, first not recognized by the people of the third planet, ( the preoccupied astronomers, for what it is) orbiting an average star, called Sol... Aliens, at last are coming we are not, is it good or bad who knows? Alone...the destination is our world, unprepared, di ...more
mark monday
Dec 29, 2013 rated it liked it
 photo footfall_zpsd0fae0e5.jpg

Footfall is an Independence Day (the movie) type book, about an alien invasion and a wide range of humans across the globe reacting to said invasion. I'm sure you've seen Independence Day and I hope you didn't like it because it sucked. but have you seen Mars Attacks? now that is a great alien invasion film. smart and hilarious. Footfall is much better than Independence Day but it is a far cry from Mars Attacks.

the first thing you should know about Footfall is that the aliens in question who
Sep 11, 2013 rated it it was ok
Moderately entertaining artifact of the 1980s, predictably sociologically dated (and occasionally downright embarrassing in its treatment of sexual issues), but that isn't the biggest problem here. Footfall is a shining example of science fiction's general refusal to face up to the challenge of conceiving a plausible invasion by an extraterrestrial power without stacking the deck severely in humanity's favor through biology, psychology, or plain old stupidity. Here our species faces the peril of ...more
Peter Tillman
Bad baby elephants in Spaace!
I still think this is the best alien-invasion story I've ever read. Granted, it's hard to write a sensible invasion story, given that:
a) it's hard to think of a reason for rational aliens to invade, and
b) if they did, they should win overwhelmingly. See rifles vs. spears.
But it makes a great *story*, and N&P have given probably as reasonable a backstory as anyone could. As an example of high-level page-turner storytelling, Footfall still rings my chimes. I've read it
Feb 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well firstly, I have read it before, many moons ago (late 80s ? ), and I always have enjoyed both Niven solo and with Pournelle, so when it came time to grab a big fat book to take as hand luggage on a brief trip to southern France, thus seemed the ideal companion. Unfortunately I was enjoying it too much and despite it being exactly 700 pages, the book ran out before the 4 day break did, not really the books fault I suppose.
If you enjoy alien invasion and some good characterisation in a sci-fi
Oct 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
A good alien invasion story with some fresh aspects to it. The enemy resemble small elephants and have a herd culture to match. This leads to many misunderstandings but also to some opportunities. I thought the opening was really good, with the introduction of some interesting characters. It was fun to learn about the enemy, called "snouts" by humans. The late middle sagged a bit for me but it picked up again at the end. SF writers become some heroes in this one. That was cool.

The book is long
Dec 20, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who enjoyed "Independence Day"
Elephant-like aliens attack Earth. Plucky Earthlings fight back. It's actually not at all bad if you like that kind of thing.

This book was described somewhere as "a rich tapestry". I recently read 99 Ways To Tell A Story , which has a witty page telling the story using the conventions of the Bayeux Tapestry, and I suddenly saw Footfall retold in the same way.

I think it would work quite well. To start off with, in a tapestry you expect all the characters to be two-dimensional. What else would
May 13, 2012 rated it it was ok
Although I generally enjoy Niven and Pournelle's work, this one was just too heavy handed. Footfall was everything I dislike about sci-fi condensed into one book: self-gratifying and self-absorbed writers writing themselves as heroes, ridiculous aliens, extreme nationalism, sexism up the whazoo, and a complete disregard for character development. Some of these are explainable (though not justifiable) from a context-sensitive reading. Indeed, maybe I wouldn't have hated this book if I'd read it i ...more
Mar 10, 2013 rated it liked it
I thought long and hard about giving this one 4 stars. It was really a toss-up...I think on a different day, I might have done so. I really enjoyed this book, but sometimes it felt like there was a lot of "fluff" in it. I listened to the audio of the book, hoping to finish in time to discuss it with the SFF Audio crew. Unfortunately, I didn't quite finish in time. Their podcast episode was pretty good, it summed up a lot of my feelings.

One thing mentioned on the podcast was that this book wasn't
Aug 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Footfall is a fun alien invasion story, full of up-tempo optimism and enthusiastic good feeling for humanity, science fiction, and The Right Stuff. It's a happy, fast-paced beach read in the spirit of Independence Day.
Feb 28, 2013 rated it liked it

Audiobook is 24 hrs. About 4&1/2 hours in. There's a zillion (well 124) characters, lots of women and sexual intrigue, and it's set nearly in the present, with an oncoming alien attack. I guess they were going for a mainstream bestseller like Lucifer's Hammer (8 years earlier), and apparently they succeeded, back in the 80's. It starts slow. I'm listening in the car, and get confused as to who's talking. There's a lot of Russian/Cold War stuff that we don't worry about much these days. At least
Mary JL
Nov 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of SF--especially adventure SF
Recommended to Mary JL by: Fan of Authors
Shelves: main-sf-fantasy
This is an excellent "invasion from outer space" book. The kind of good, old fashioned slam-bang adventure that was very prevalent in SF at one time.

One quirk of these elephantine invaders is: they will fight but if they surrender, they belong to the winning side permanently. So they are confused when humans surrender--and then fight back. They consider those humans to be dangerously "rogue", and kill them instead of conquering them.

Also, one of the aliens is captured by our side--and becomes a
Holly Heisey
Jun 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I was hooked on Niven and Pournelle ever since I read A Mote in God's Eye, which hit every right button for a space-based alien contact epic. Footfall told a story closer to home, asking what if the aliens came to us at Earth, what would we really do, how would different groups of people react, and how would the aliens respond to the alien-ness of us?

Though it's familiar territory, Footfall really delves into the human aspect, extrapolating from hard science and politics to paint a very plausib
Apr 30, 2008 rated it it was ok
More catastrophe survivalist misogyny from Niven and Pournelle. Maybe it's because I just recently read Lucifer's Hammer, or maybe I'm getting older, but I'm finding my earlier affection for Niven's work fading.
I'm sure there's a literary term for what the author's have done in Footfall and L.H., but I'm going to have to describe it- All of the characters we meet (and there are a lot) make the right decisions and are clearly superior to the common people who we don't ever really get to know. Pu
Mike (the Paladin)
In this day of wonderful, kind, helpful aliens or omnipotent, unstoppable, tree hugging, environmentalist aliens a nice old fashioned "invaders from outer space" story is kind of nice. I like it. I enjoyed it. Not only a good "yarn" (like the word??? okay, "a good story"...sigh) but also some nice insights into the way people think. While I can't quite give a blanket recommendation to Larry Niven's works, this is one I really like. So, prepare for the worst...and ready yourself for aliens who wa ...more
Oct 29, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi
Just good, old fashioned alien invasion, action, science. What else would you want for a good summer read!
May 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sf-fantasy
Compulsively readable page turner. Perhaps the most "realistic" aliens invasion of earth novel I have ever read. My second time around reading this, 15 years later, left me with nearly the same high level of delight as last time.

And the importance of science fiction writers to the war effort? Maybe less realistic, but still a lot of fun.

Of course, aliens invading earth is really the perfect setup for what is a pro-military somewhat "conservative" world view. Endless accumulation of nuclear weapo
Vfields Don't touch my happy!
1995 - The first and best Science Fiction I ever read. I loved every second.

2016 - I thought it was time for a revisit to one of the best books I'd ever read and the book that taught me 'big & busy' was nothing to fear when picking a book. The cast of characters were many. Wes Dawson is wonderful, one character makes me mist up near the end, we're offered better female characters from Niven, there are aliens I could hate and even care about a few. A word of note to readers: When 'Archangel Mic
Dec 11, 2014 rated it it was ok
This book contains approximately 300 pages of embarrassing misogynistic crap, sad cliches, and stupid characters that ruin what could have been a great 250 page alien invasion story. Lucifer's Hammer was the same BS. And that's a damn dirty shame because The Mote In God's Eye was an incredibly vibrant story, which spurred me to read more Niven/Pournelle books. Move on...nuthin to read here :[
Andy Giesler
An impressive, sprawling, engaging alien invasion story—from the eighties.


I always tense up when a book starts with a Dramatis Personae listing. In part that's because I don't enjoy keeping track of that many characters, and in part because with so many characters, it can be hard to make them distinct.

In Footfall, despite the sheer number of characters, they're well drawn, with good variety and distinctiveness. Characters are fleshed out and well-described. Motivations are reasonable
Briane Pagel
Jul 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I think one of the things I like best about Footfall is the sheer scope of the story. It's fitting, I think, for an end-of-the-world story to have a giant cast and a universal reach -- in this case, outside of the galaxy and spanning 15+ years between when the story starts and when the invasion of Earth begins.

I like big sprawling books that you can really sink into. People talk about "world building" and I vaguely understand/care about what they say, but world building like Larry Niven does in
Jun 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dan Henk
Mar 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
They don't write books like this anymore.
Multitudes of characters, converging plotlines, cold war intrigues, and a good old fashioned, worldwide alien invasion story. There's good and bad in this novel, but at the end, the good outweighed the bad and made the book worth reading. I'll start with the bad, and get that out of the way-

The Bad:
Too many characters. They become hard to keep track of after awhile, especially when you have to also figure out social connections that appeared briefly pages
Justin Pickett
Apr 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
“They mean to be the dominant but not the only intelligent species on Earth” (p. 344).

The alien invaders in Footfall have a benevolent-dictator mindset, and I love that. I also love that the government uses a team of alcoholic, science fiction writers to determine military strategy. But my favorite part is the aliens’ and humans’ attempts to figure each other out, which are sometimes insightful (“You will teach us your laws. Then you will live by them,” p. 289) and other times funny (“Herdmaste
John Bowlin
Mar 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is probably the best alien invasion book I have ever read. This involves an alien ship that arrives in earth orbit and immediately starts a war with humanity, and they have far superior technology. The aliens are similar to Earth's elephants, but not really the same. That's probably the only thing I do not like about the book, because the book never really comes up with any good explanation (unless I missed it) of how that evolved. But aside from that, this makes for a really cool alien ene ...more
Dec 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Niven and Pournelle are one of the seamless entertainment teams that makes it look a great deal easier than it is. That is because Larry Niven is a quality writer and Jerry Pournelle was an established scientist. When they bring their talents together the effect is fantastic and, in my opinion, very re-readable.

Footfall is the story of alien invasion. Before you say to yourself, "yeah, I saw that movie", let me tell you this: that movie (which ever one, you pick!) was probably based off this boo
Jul 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
Getting used to the alien language is difficult but sort of fun.
The aliens morphology is silly but their instincts are interesting.
The books is an answer to the question:

"How can a race travel between stars without being peaceful?"

Sagan might argue any such race must have survived cultural adolescence.
They managed not to destroy themselves before reaching the space age.
This can be done through cooperation and peace.
But it could also be accomplished by an instinct to submit once defeated!
With su
Bruce McDonald
Aug 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
By the time I got over the novelty of the aliens' taxonomy and swallowed the bait on their main weapon of war, I was deep into the quagmire of tedious detail and heavy-handed dialogue of the innumerable shallow characters. The sexism was palpable but after realizing the book was written in 1985 it's gratifying to realize how far we've come. I enjoyed the challenge to my preconceived notions of winning and losing at war, and as a science fiction book should, it opened my mind to the possibility o ...more
I read this awhile back and remembered it as a fun if not very substantial read. It reads like a novelization of an epic disaster movie like Independence Day. The aliens look like elephants which is kind of goofy. Niven and Pournelle will never be mistaken for great literary writers, They hail from the pulp fiction side of sci-fi and their Libertarian views tend to be heavy-handed and often weight down their books. But ti was fun so I'll give it a cautious three stars.
Science fiction classic - one of the best alien invasion stories ever, in my opinion.
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What's the Name o...: SOLVED. Sentient elephants? [s] 13 86 May 14, 2014 11:41PM  
footfall by niven and pournelle 13 92 Sep 27, 2013 07:50AM  

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Laurence van Cott Niven's best known work is Ringworld (Ringworld, #1) (1970), which received the Hugo, Locus, Ditmar, and Nebula awards. His work is primarily hard science fiction, using big science concepts and theoretical physics. The creation of thoroughly worked-out alien species, which are very different from humans both physically and mentally, is recognized as one of Niven's main strengths ...more

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