What would happen if scientists discovered a giant comet entering our solar system and headed in the general direction of Earth? What if that comet actually collided with Earth? How would we react to the possibility and to the catastrophic events?
This is the premise of Purnell and Niven's Lucifer's Hammer.
The comet is named “Hamner-Brown” - in part for Tim Hamner, the millionaire / amateur astronomer who discovered it. But the public quickly applies new nicknames such as "Hammer of God" and "Lucifer's Hammer". The day the comet finally strikes Earth is forever known as "Hammerfall". The Hammer strikes suddenly with an unmatched fury, launching tidal waves, massive floods, and months of cloud cover and rain. Millions are killed in a matter of hours and nearly all the infrastructure holding together modern civilization is destroyed. The San Joaquin Valley becomes the San Joaquin Sea; the state of Texas is wiped out by a tidal wave thousands of feet high; earthquakes destroy major metropolitan areas all over the world; hurricanes decimate the US planes states; and the city of Washington - along with the US government - is destroyed.
The main story of Lucifer's Hammer takes place mostly in central California and follows the lives of a few people with good intentions trying to survive the aftermath of Hammerfall. But survival is difficult because most of the world goes very crazy, very quickly. Within hours, looters are invading homes, stealing food and liquor and killing anyone in their way; within weeks some groups have turned to cannibalism for survival.
Local leaders establish a new martial law in some cities, while paramilitary groups roam the lands between the cities stealing and terrifying anyone they find.
Lucifer's Hammer book kept me engaged throughout. I could not wait to see what would happen next. From the study of the earthbound comet to the panic of the strike to the sudden change in lif for literally everyone the story moves forward with urgency. The characters are transformed by the disaster and we follow them through love triangles and survival in the wilderness and an attempt to quickly adapt to the new world. We meet Harvey ??? a documentary filmmaker, who struggles to make himself useful after Hammerful; and ??? the mailman, who faithfully continues to deliver the mail, even after he loses his truck and is attacked by bandits. And Sentaro Jelison (???), who organizes a mountain town - The Stronghold - into a sanctuary with himself as commander-in-cheif; and ???, a black militant who views Hammerfall as a chance for him and his black brothers to finally gain the power they deserve. And Hamner himself, no longer a millionaire playboy but now a household name for his role in the comet's discovery.
The climax of the story features a battle between the protagonists at The Stronghold fighting off an invasion by The New Brotherhood - marauding cannibals intent on destroying all people and civilization in their path.
Although the chances against a giant comet hitting Earth are literally astronomical, this novel depicts a believable version of events that would happen if such a catastrophe occurred.
I was finished with this book before I knew it.