This rant was written when Lucifer’s Hammer first came out. My opinion hasn’t changed much.
Let me put it this way: I am a man of low and catholic tastes. I can read Piers Anthony for pleasure. I may not be proud of it, but there it is. I like most of Niven’s stuff. I even like some of Jerry Pournelle’s stuff. I liked Mote and Inferno. So let it not be said that I am not qualified for the role of Speaker For Hacks. This is my one word review for Lucifer’s Hammer:
Oh, I don’t deny that it was a “fun read” — Niven and Pournelle are both good story tellers.
Some would complain that it is a formula “best seller” novel. While it is true that they set out deliberately to use the formula, I don’t fault them for that — it’s a genre.
The thing that I find offensive is the demonization and apothesization. Astronauts like gods — give me a break. Does it not occur to you that Pournelle (of the two, Jerry is the hard core bigot — Larry is soft core) has gathered all of his favorite targets in to one group and demonized them. Does it never occur to you that that troop of renegade black cannibal soldiers is grossly improbable, to say nothing of being gross? Do you really miss the rampant racism of the book? Does it not occur to you that the “Angels” are political caricature and demonization?
Let me summarize this book for you: Catastrophe happens. The good guys [our heroes, complex and human, heir to loneliness of leadership] go off in the mountains to found a new kingdom. The bad guys [liberals, environmentalists, blacks, religious fanatics, cheap politicians] form a cannibal crusade to destroy every thing worthwhile. Astronauts return from space like shining gods. The cannibal horde tries to destroy the good guys. They also try to destroy the magic talisman of technophilic goodness, the Atomic Power Station. In the end the horde is defeated by the devices of the techie genius nerd.
This book is pornography — a pandering by the authors to their own bigotry. It is morally corrupt. Now, for the superficial who will react, “You don’t like it because you’re an X”, let me disabuse you before you bounce into your song and and dance. My objection is not to the choice of villains and heroes — my objection is to the pervasive bigotry and auctorial corruptness. If a Y vomits in my face, I do not object because they are a Y, I object because they vomited in my face.
This page was last updated July 4, 2003.