Bang, Bang, Lucifer’s Hammer comes down on my head

Writers, content creators, etc., all fetishcize the post-apocalyptic world since it is an opening for them to demonstrate their deep familiarity with the darkness at the heart of humanity. And it is a fun canvas on which to create, where characters can toss a dead baby out of a moving car and still (in theory) be sympathetic protagonists. Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle try to do both in Lucifer’s Hammer.

It’s not a good book, not in the traditional way one enjoys the reading and recommends it to others. For one, the authors go thru more than 200 pages before we get to the dead baby tossing, which should have been on Page One. That’s 200+ pages of a comet approaching Earth, making the reader wade thru insipid characters and exposition to get to a foregone conclusion.

Then that latter half is ensconced in the guiding principle to “save the establishment,” which is male, white, and industrial, rationalized with myopic commentary on race and gender and casual cannibalism, so even when trying to be dark and despairing, the book has the crushing dullness of the status quo.

Lucifer’s Hammer is also populated by several screamers of failed foresight:

Somehow nobody ever thinks of killing a newsman. Too vividly public, maybe: The whole world is watching. Other rioters had stopped, were crowding around, but not as if they were waiting their run to kill Tim Hamner. They were waiting for a chance to speak. (pg. 236)

That sounds quaint, even hopelessly naive, when you consider the violent animus now on display toward the free press. Maybe the attacks on the media by the Grand Old Party of Fascists (GOPf) is part of their long game to wear down that reluctance to target “newsmen,” if that did exist in 1977.

A later passage tries to demonstrate a stripped-down insight behind the chest-thumping myth of self-reliance in modern America. It starts strong but fails to stick the landing:

Most of these people had prided themselves on being on their own. Of course that wasn’t true, hadn’t been true for generations, and they were smart enough to know it, but it would take them time to realize just how dependent they’d been on civilization. (pg 356)

They couldn’t pop one myth without invoking another—the fairy tale of self-awareness. No way the vacuous meatbags of today—the Trumps, Tuckers, and Bundys—will ever realize their own absurdity and uselessness. Were that to happen, they would shrivel up into a tight ball of existential despair, never to speak again. And that is too much to hope for.

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