Friday, November 21, 2008

From Lucifer's Hammer

I just finished reading Lucifer's Hammer (by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournell) for the second time. Just as good a read as the first time! As SHTF novels go, this one scores the gold. A meteor hits the Earth. China attacks Russia, nukes flying right after all hell breaks loose with the meteor, which has calved and hits all over the world. Massive tidal waves. Rain for weeks. A seriously bad scenario. . . and yet, some folks survive (or we wouldn't have the pleasure of reading how they do it...).

It is a well-written novel, very entertaining at the same time it is pretty scary. Many millions don't survive, of course, and for those that do survive the meteor hits, there are zillions of ways for them to perish.

There is not much that is useful for the survival-minded, really. I mean, if you're in the right place, right time and incredibly lucky, you might have had a chance. In this scenario, there's not much you could do to increase your chances of survival without that supreme luck. So, there's no info on which tool would serve best, nor hints on how best to set up a latrine in a camp, or to live in the woods or even in the cities--there's too much calamity inherent for that.

But towards the end, I did come across a couple of paragraphs which seems worthy to me of copying and keeping. And here they are:

(This is set in the surviving valley belonging to a Californian senator. All the folks in the valley are on his side--lots of bad guys on the outside.)

The children had adjusted quickly to the new conditions. One elderly adult as a teacher, a dozen or more children, two working dogs and a herd of swine: school and work. A different sort of school with different lessons. Reading and arithmetic, certainly, but also other knowledge: to lead the pigs to dog droppings (the dogs in turn ate part of the human sewage); and always to carry a bucket to collect the pig manure, which must be brought back at night. Other lessons: how to trap rats and squirrels. Rats were important to the new ecology. They had to be kept out of the Stronghold's barns (cats did most of that), but the rats were themselves useful: They found their own food, they could be eaten, their fur made clothing and shoes, and their small bones made needles. There were prizes for the children who caught the most rats.

Closer to town was the sewage works, where the animal and human wastes were shoveled into boilers with wood chips and sawdust. The heat of the fermentation sterilized everything, and the hot gases were lead out through pipes that ran under City Hall and the hospital to form part of the heating system, then condensed. The resulting methanol, wood alcohol, ran the trucks that collected the wastes, with some left over for other work. The system wasn't complete--they needed more boilers, and more pipes and condensers, and the work absorbed too much skilled labor--but Hardy could be deservedly proud of the start they had made. By spring they'd have a lot of high-nitrogen fertilizer from the residue in the boilers, all sterilized and ready for the crops they'd plant--and there should be enough methanol to run tractors for the initial heavy work of plowing.

Those are the two paragraphs I found useful and worth keeping. I'll keep the whole book of course, it is a great read and a good novel. Thought-provoking as they say. I'll also hope that no meteor hits the earth, but in the meantime, I found the sewage use interesting.


Anonymous said...

You didn't find the "hide your books, the information will come in usefull" to be worthwhile?

Or "the rich get richer and the poor stay poor"

or "if you're female, you're only worthwhile as a sex object or dumb ass?" (i don't agree, btw)

Or am I thinking of the wrong book?

Anonymous said...

"...and nobody kept answering..." (Catcher In The Rye)

Patricia said...

Hey Anonymous--you're right! I forgot the hide your books bit. Thanks for bringing that up--not sure how that slipped my mind, as I'm a book person who reads incessantly for information.

The other two you mention are just business as usual, how the world thinks and acts. Not important.