Wednesday, 8 February 2012
Lucifer's Hammer - disaster sci-fi novel
It was. It is. It's fun to read a book that is 35 years old, have it set in 1977, and be jolted back to what life was like back then. Specifically, to life when there was us, and them. In this book, Russia is still the USSR, and the divide is still up, and they are on the wrong side for being communist. I mention this not because politics enter into this book - it doesn't, not really, but because that strangeness from beyond the Iron Curtain is part of the space program that does play a part in this book. It was like a flashback time for me, because I was old enough to remember life in the 1970s, the aftereffects of the Cold War and the nuclear power problem.
But all of that is only a little tiny part of the book, background that sets up the real story: the discovery of a comet that is going to pass near earth, only the trajectory changes, and part of the comet's tail pass through earth. It is the end of the world, literally, as everything we know (expect from movies we've seen, etc) about the end of the world comes to pass: earthquakes, tidal waves, fires, power loss......and then the resulting ash cloud and rain. I love the disaster part, the cataloguing of what happens when a meteor hits the earth (in this case, several make it through the atmosphere to land). It is provided in satisfying detail in Lucifer's Hammer.
The best part though, are the people. It is delightful to read a disaster story where the characters are real, where their struggle to survive, and to find a safe haven to survive the coming first winter (the hardest), makes the book gripping. I literally couldn't put it down. I read it in one weekend, staying up very late one night, reading through meals with my family, ignoring housework, just happily engrossed in this wonderful story about the end of the world as we know it, and what happens after.
I even found myself laughing at some parts, and crying at others. It is about as realistic a look as I've seen. And it's good. The dialogue is good and strong. It's a fabulous, fun story, and I think it's one of the best post-apocalyptic disaster novels I've read. It's also realistic. Most of the characters who survive are totally unprepared for the end of the world.
Best of all, books feature in this book. One very wise character does something with books that is so unexpected, and so practical, and it's a reminder of all the wisdom and knowledge found in books.
On a personal note, diabetes also features in this book, and it was very interesting reading about one character, who is on insulin when the meteor crashes, and what happens to him.
This was read for Carl's Sci-fi experience, and also as part of my personal challenge to read more nominated and winning Hugo and Nebula award novels.