Review: Lucifer's Hammer

Lucifer's Hammer
Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love a good apocalypse book, and this was a good one. I liked how the story was told from a variety of perspectives, and how the same moment in time is retold from several viewpoints in various locations. I think this story may have heavily influenced the screen writers responsible for Deep Impact, but this story doesn't end at the point of impact.

I'm compelled to compare this to [b:One Second After|4922079|One Second After|William R. Forstchen||4987669], a much more recently published apocalypse scenario that I had previously read. I enjoyed One Second After, but I thought it could have been much better. There are some distinct differences in plot. In One Second After, the population has no warning at all of the apocalyptic event. The population of Lucifer's Hammer has months of advance notice, but are not entirely convinced that the comet will hit. The event in One Second After only disabled electronics, while Lucifer's Hammer sunders the earth. Lucifer's Hammer is better in a variety of ways. I felt more connected to the characters. I felt the science had a better foundation. I felt the reaction of the public was more believable. My only gripe with Lucifer's Hammer is the part that women play throughout, and this is likely due to the time the story was written. The story was written in the mid seventies, and you definitely get the "Mad Men" vibe what with alcohol as tonic throughout, and women largely as bedroom furniture. Even so, there are some female characters with strong, constructive roles (watch for Eileen particularly).

I really enjoyed this book, and would recommend to any other fans of post apocalyptic scenarios.

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Journey is the third video game produced by independent development house thatgamecompany. I really enjoyed their previous games Flow and Flower. These games stretch the definition of "game", and Journey stretches that definition the furthest. In Journey you play as a...well.. who knows. Your character is an armless humanoid dressed in a robe that covers you from head to foot. Your objective is rather vague: there is a mountain in the distance, and you will journey towards it. Your interaction with the world is limited to just a few actions: moving about, vocalizing, and leaping. The world that you move through is really extraordinary, and it is fun to explore and find out just how much you can do with these limited controls. Still, this limited interaction leaves me wondering if "game" is the right term to apply here. In Flow you battled against other organisms to become king of the depths. Flower was more vague, essentially a finding exercise as you searched for enough flowers to bloom in order to open up the next section of the game. Journey offers even less direction. If you wanted, you could just tape the joystick to point forward and come back in two hours to see the credits roll.

There has been a lot of dispute about whether or not video games should be considered art. Acclaimed film critic Roger Ebert has famously said that they are not comparable to film and books as art, while the Smithsonian Institute has created a traveling museum honoring the art of video games. Journey, in my view, is trying very hard to be considered art. It is an interactive experience that each person is going to react to differently. The gaming press has been falling over itself to lavish praise on this game, but I'm not sure that this is necessarily a good thing. Yes, Journey is beautiful and unique, but the "game" element here is pretty weak. Someone looking for the same sort of release that a game like Call of Duty provides isn't going to find it here, and that could create a backlash by the gaming community. The entire experience can be completed in under two hours, and many gamers might feel cheated by that.

I definitely recommend giving Journey a try, but caution to approach this as a piece of interactive art rather than a video game. Consider it a $15 door fee to a private showing at an artist's gallery.

Jade Mason