Footfall by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
This is my review of Footfall, a Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle novel from 1985. Overall, the story is of a race of elephant-like aliens from Alpha Centauri invading Earth and Earth’s attempts at repelling the invasion. You can buy it here: http://amzn.to/2fiB0Sz
Footfall, what’s it about?
When Footfall was published in 1985, it was a fairly well received alien invasion novel. Footfall was nominated for the 1986 Hugo Award for Best Novel and the 1986 Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel and was a No. 1 New York Times Bestseller. The Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle pedigree certainly helped this happen. Overall, the story is of a race of elephant-like aliens from Alpha Centauri invading Earth and Earth’s attempts at repelling the invasion.
Human characters, and there are lots, consist of civilians who are preppers, military who give us stereotypical performances and Russians stepped straight out of a 1950’s cold war fiction novel. The female characters who are so badly written they are insulting with many only concerned with how some men will think of them.
Science fiction writers are placed as advisers which is simultaneously a great and awful move, something I’d label as Schrodinger’s characterization. Seriously, sci-fi writers including sci-fi writers? Are sci-fi writers the only people with imagination? As some are based on the authors it appears so.
Back to the story, the initial assault is global however the landing point is Kansas. It’s not really memorable as to why the Fithp chose to settle in Kansas but the reason is neither here nor there as both the Americans and Russians nuke the alien base there anyway. Utterly horrified by the pollution of the garden region of America (as yes that was the reason) the Fithp throw an asteroid at the Indian Ocean and destroy India and much of that region. Running out of continents, the Fithp now choose to invade Africa and actually get help doing this by promising influence to local “warlords”.
Meanwhile, back in the famous Cheyenne Mountain Complex, a plan is hatched to launch an atomic bomb powered ship from the preppers town to take on the alien mothership. The propulsion was based on a real idea, check out Project Orion. Some things happen and there’s some conclusion reached but the end is rather sudden.
Video review of Footfall
Anything going for this?
Yes, it’s a lot of fun to read, there are some fascinating insights into interstellar travel, generation ships and so on. The strengths of the authors clearly lie in the area of science, and tellingly, the scientific theories of the time, take Bussard Ramjets as an example. The attempt to demonstrate how alien the aliens are by using a herd mentality is interesting. The usage of elephants is probably to help us imagine a secondary race becoming the apex predator of Earth if we became extinct. Would it be possible for another species on Earth to evolve and take over for example?
Tons of characters, not sure why as some seem very similar to each other. As there’s a cast of thousands it gives the book a “big” feel to it but the substance is missing. It could be a great TV series though, a single season show if it was updated to have a more modern outlook and some what I consider to be glaring errors were corrected. Project Orion never really took off literally because of the fallout so another drive system could be selected. That’s just an example.
Anyway, an enjoyable read minus how outdated some of the attitudes and science seems.
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