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Lucifer's Hammer

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  41,752 ratings  ·  1,473 reviews

The gigantic comet has slammed into Earth, forging earthquakes a thousand times too powerful to measure on the Richter scale, tidal waves thousands of feet high. Cities were turned into oceans; oceans turned into steam. It was the beginning of a new Ice Age and the end of civilization

But for the terrified men and women chance had saved, it was als
Mass Market Paperback, #20813-3, 629 pages
Published June 1983 by Ballantine/Del Ray (first published July 1st 1977)
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Matt Duckworth
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Average rating 3.99  · 
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 ·  41,752 ratings  ·  1,473 reviews

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Dec 25, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of the apocalypse

Full review (links and all) at because I am going to digress like you won't believe...

Good grief, reading hasn’t been such a chore since Professional Nursing Practice Foundations and Concepts. And in the fiction world, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. So perhaps you should take my review with a grain of salt, since plenty of people love Strange (unsurprisingly, no one admits to loving Practice Foundations). Niven and Pournelle start with a great idea, a
Althea Ann
Jun 18, 2016 rated it did not like it
Stop! Hammertime!

The Hammer disregards all pleas not to 'hurt 'em.'
Please, Hammer! Don't hurt 'em!


There should be a name for the particular type of book that is exemplified by some popular novels published between the late 1950s and the early 1980s. It's very distinctive, but hard to describe. Some characteristics include: an insistence on referring to men by their last names only, flat characterization which tends to adhere to sterotypical gender roles, a focus on jobs/career as being a key part of identity, and a predominance of lovele
Now originally I had this marked as a re-read but do you know, if I had read it, I didn't remember it one little bit so I'm guessing I have really never read this before, which I have to say is very remiss of me, as this is a very good book, that's very good not great.

I have always enjoyed Larry Niven's books, hey Ringworld is one of my favourite SF books of all time, and this book is just so typically Niven. What do I mean by typically Niven ? Well he is one of the best exponents of world and
Aug 23, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Californians, cannibalistic televangelists, Bruce Willis,
There was a time when Larry Niven was one of my favorite authors. Of course, that time was when I was an immature SF geek who didn't read much else. Okay, I still think Ringworld was kind of awesome. And I have fond memories of some of his other collaborations with Jerry Pournelle, e.g. Footfall and Oath of Fealty. But the last few I have read really unearthed things I didn't notice when I was younger, and this one, which was one of their early collaborations, really shows its age.

Lucifer's Hamm
Henry Avila
May 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
In deep space a little smudge appears near Neptune, amateur astronomer Timothy Hammer a millionaire playboy he's rather a timid philanderer sees the object. From a third generation wealthy family in Los Angeles Tim inherited a big soap company.Through his telescope it's a very let's be honest unimpressive thing but getting bigger. And the public will notice soon enough, a lot in fact become quite scared... In his private observatory located on a mountain top outside the city after numberless lon ...more
Mar 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
I just knocked this one off my top one-hundred novels of all time, but I did it with a heavy heart.

Memories of a novel sometimes simply don't live up to a re-read.

On the other hand, there are quite a few things about it that are still freaking fantastic, such as the science and the emotional impact of the comet strike. Most of the first third of the novel focused on the 70's modern society, with all the strange views common of that time, but that wasn't the most striking feature. I was humbled b
Donna Crupi
Jan 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
My God I loved this book! Back in high school I thought I wasn't a reader. Then I had an English teacher, Andy Page who would suggest I read certain books. This was the first one he recommended.

I found out it wasn't that I didn't like to read. It was that I didn't like to read crappy books.

Lucifer's Hammer is the sci-fi book I use to measure all sci-fi books against. With a memorable band of characters, a doomsday clock ticks down along with the explanation of the odds of the comet hitting the
Joe Valdez
Feb 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
The next stop in my end-of-the-world reading marathon was Lucifier's Hammer, the 1977 disaster epic by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. Niven was an established, Nebula Award winning author in Los Angeles when in the early 1970s, he was approached by Pournelle, an engineer with a military background who lived in the area. Pournelle was looking for a partner to teach him how to write and inexplicably, the pair went on to co-author nine novels together.

After a dedication to Neil Armstrong and Buz
Not the book I remember reading in high-school. Of course that was thirty-four years ago! Times and attitudes change. What was a thrilling page turner is now a cliched and overblown melodrama. What happened?

Stereotypes, clichés, overwrought writing, and some real interesting ideas about race, men and women. Not to mention a pretty negative view on Human nature in general. Talk about dark. And I've been a cop for the past nineteen years! Not everyone is that horrible or that quick to give into s
Nov 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Yep, still a five star read for me. It's everything a post-apocalyptic book should be, including very realistic. I've been reading this book for 25 years and I've probably read it 20 times and I'll read it 20 more. "We control the lightning!"

Mar 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very interesting read. The idea of a comet strike is a scary one, for sure, and even though this may be a little dated, the outcomes still seem pertinent. While I liked the story overall, I never did really connect with the characters.
Jul 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The end of our civilization comes as a comet hits the world & we're shown through the eyes of a bunch in California. This book has it all & is well researched. I first read it when it came out in the 1970s & am surprised by how well it has aged - very well indeed. Perennial problems with race, religion, & the morals of survival are all examined through a large, but well drawn cast of characters.

I read this with the Evolution of SF group & it was a great pick since I can see where it helped spawn
Lucifer’s Hammer falls into the “End of the World/Catastrophic Event/How Will the Human Race Survive” category, and it can be further broken down into those niche genres in SF which wipe California off the face of the map then discuss how Earth will survive.

Destruction of California aside, this was a really good book. Tim Hamner discovers a comet, which upon further investigation will be moving through Earths solar system in the immediate near future. Chances of it hitting are a million to one…n
Michelle Morrell
Lucifer's Hammer isn't just a book about a comet. Lucifer's Hammer is a full-on 1970s disaster film, full of polyester flared slacks and unfortunate hair. All the peril and pathos of an epic apocalyptic masterpiece, set around the Hollywood normal lives of strangely familiar characters dramatically ripped asunder and the epic levels they go to for survival. It's a big book in more than page numbers.

What I liked:

It's smart. There is a lot of science peppered throughout, real facts and knowledge w
Kat  Hooper
Oct 14, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook
3.5 audio Originally published at FanLit.

When bored millionaire Tim Hamner discovers a new comet, he’s excited to finally accomplish something without the help of his family. Harvey Randall, who’s producing a TV documentary about the comet, expects his show to be wildly popular. And the American and Russian astronauts who are chosen to study the comet are proud to be chosen for such an important international mission.

All the experts said there was no way t
David Sarkies
Jul 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like hard sci-fi
Recommended to David by: Came with a Larry Niven collection
Shelves: sci-fi
A disaster and post-apocalyptic novel rolled into one
10 August 2015

Well I am finally back from my trip after finally finishing this monster of a book 20 minutes before my plane touched down at Melbourne Airport (and what a horrid flight it was: I really should have put my carry on bag into the overhead locker - I so didn't need my laptop because I was too exhausted to do anything other than attempt to finish this book, despite the fact that the plane had to take the long way round due to a volc
Oleksandr Zholud
Jul 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a large SF apoc/post-apoc novel. I read is as a part of monthly reading for July 2020 at The Evolution of Science Fiction group and in a month (in August 2020) it should be in Hugo & Nebula Awards: Best Novels group. The book was first published in 1977 and was nominated for Hugo, but lost to Gateway by Frederik Pohl.

The story’s title is a name of the comet, which should go right next to Earth in 1977. Originally the comet was named Hamner-Brown Comet by the names of the discoverers, bu
Nov 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020-read
Lucifer’s Hammer is one of the classic works of science fiction; it was nominated for the Hugo and Locus awards for Best Novel. Written by Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven and published in 1977, Lucifer’s Hammer is one of the most prominent examples of the post-apocalyptic trope of modern science fiction. Set primarily in California, the story follows a large cast of characters as they are affected by the discovery of the Hamner-Brown comet, its rapid approach to Earth, catastrophic collision and ...more
Dec 19, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: scifi, 2fiction, 1paper
Like Armegeddon, the earth is the target, this time by a comet & it hits the earth. Excellent look at our civilization; how fragile, yet resilient. A must read. Well written & researched.
Nov 12, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
In my quest to read classic post apocalyptic classics, I couldn't very well ignore the famous Lucifer's Hammer, although having read it, I now wish I did. Any book opening with a list of characters (and not being Shakespeare) should warn the reader of how difficult it'll be to keep those characters straight, which was definitely the case here. It might have been easier, had the characters been more likeable, but they were just a bit like stereotypes and not very relatable. The introductions took ...more
Nov 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A truly fabulous, and extremely scientific scenario for a possible end of modern civilisation, due to meteor strike.

One of my very favourite sci-fi and space opera books when I was just entering university. Terrific stuff. I also totally loved The Mote in God's Eye
Wayne Barrett
Nov 27, 2016 rated it really liked it


What could possibly be worse than a full scale nuclear war? How about a century long ice age covering what is left of civilization after a massive comet strike.

I felt like the characters were a little weak... unrealistic in their mannerisms and dialogue, but the plot line was powerful. Of course the final events would take place around my home town of Bakersfield California. The scariest part about stories like this one is that it is something that could actually happen, and in our present
Patrick Peterson
2020-03-02 - I just saw a friend reference this book and realized I had not reviewed it, but really liked it. I read this about 20-24 years ago or so and found it totally gripping. I did not like the negative implications and authoritarian nature of the authors' dealing with the apocalyptic scenario they had drawn, but they still did a highly plausible job.

The set-up: What happens to some people in the LA area (including the one who actually discovered the upcoming disaster) when a meteor/aster
Sep 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
Towards the beginning of this book I knew I was going to give it five stars and I figured that one star would be for nostalgia. Then I realized that any book that keeps me going back over and over for nearly 25 years has damn well earned the full five stars. I just love this book. It's what made me fall in love with the post-apocalyptic sub-genre in the first place.

35% of the book takes place before the comet strike. One of the thing that always interests me is how very angry people get towards
Nov 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
Some books take you back to a time and place. I can tell you I was 17. It was spring break. My senior year of high school. I was in New Mexico. At an artists house. A dinner party. I sat in the corner reading this book.

This was a most enjoyable read. I liked the build up, the various vignettes of people. I loved the detailed description of the end of the world. I loved all the little (well, not literally little) things that went down with our characters, how they survived or didn't. I loved the
Apr 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
A bit dated in language and attitudes, possessed of a few too many convenient coincidences, and stretching credibility more than once (cannibalism so quickly?? surely not!), nevertheless still a classic of the genre and a fun read. It's also steeped in that optimistic, sunny, innocent 1970s belief that technology can save us from anything, a viewpoint which appears distinctly naive today given tech's decidedly mixed impact (I'm looking at you, Fake News and nuclear accidents and cyberstalking an ...more
The eeriest part of the story of the dinosaurs is its sudden, abrupt, and once-mysterious ending. After nearly 200 million years of domination, the dinosaurs vanished in a startlingly moment. Although the source of this mass extinction was debated hotly for years, today a general consensus of scientists believes asteroid impact to have been the culprit. The force of the impact shockwave would have been disastrous by itself, vaporizing everything in a wide radius...but the widespread ecological d ...more
Christian D.  Orr
Jun 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Sci-fi fans
One of the classic TEOTWAWKI ("The End of the World As We Know It") novels about a comet striking the Earth, published in 1977 and thus predating films like "Armageddon" and "Deep Impact" by a good solid decade.

A gripping, scientifically well-grounded, frighteningly realistic storyline and a diverse cast of characters that hold the reader's interest. And as someone who grew up in L.A, the SoCal locations--particularly the San Fernando Valley--make the novel relatable for me at a personal level;
Roger Ley
Aug 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-books
The lockdown has me revisiting by home bookshelves and what a read this was. Definitely the best post apocalypse story I've ever read. Like some of John Wyndham's novels, it's all about what happens after the apocalypse. A masterful novel by two wonderful writers. ...more
Austin Prince
Apr 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
TLDR: the dialogue is great, the set-up was good, the apocalypse was fun, and the ending was hopeful, but this book's regressive social opinions do not stand the test of time.

The allure of the post-apocalyptic genre does not arise solely from morbid curiosity, conservatism, or Michael Bay explosions. The characters even mention it in the beginning - it is the desire for personal meaning in your life. A society-ender shatters alienation. You may safely pause from keeping up with the Facebook Jone
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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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