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Disastrous entertainment

I love the Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle book, Lucifer’s Hammer, which is in my view the best “disaster book” every written.

What is your favourite disaster movie/book?

46 comments to Disastrous entertainment

  • “My Best Friend’s Wedding”.

  • Wonderful quote from Hammer that I use when I can, can’t remember the exact wording but – “In space, it is raining soup, but there are people who want to stop us learning to make bowls”.

  • Lets see,

    Niven – Best disaster book, two best first contact books, the best half dozen or so aliens, the most gobsmacking scenarios.

    Pity he has gone downhill in recent years.

  • I’m sort of looking forward to their Inferno sequel.

  • As somebody who doesn’t give a crap about obscure science fiction, I have to say I misread the post and thought it was a book by David Niven.

    As for best disaster movie, I’ll select San Francisco (1936). It’s amazing how good MGM were at making a polished product.

    The Nazi version of Titanic is also quite interesting.

  • Brad

    I read a book as a teen called Syzygy. It seemed fairly gripping at the time. But so many times that which seemed good quality at fifteen doesn’t hold up.

    Book Description

    USA: Bantam Books , 1982. Paperback. Good. TIME: EIGHT SECONDS INTO THE FUTURE Scientists and psychics are predicting eruptions and earthquakes that could devastate half the earth, caused by a rare conjuction of the planets. It’s ca1led SYZYGY. PLACE: SOUTHERN CAHFORNIA A ruthless land speculator decides to make a quick killing by starting a panic. Then others cash in on the Syzygy Effect for their own greed: a crackpot cult preaching doom, a politician out for votes, a quack scientist out to make the headlines. PROGNOSIS: DISASTER! When California is paralyzed by brush fires and flash floods hysteria explodes. Only a dedicated scieptist and a beautiful NASA astrophysicist can prevent massive destruction. But they’re up against forces that will stop at nothing to keep the truth from getting out . ISBN 0-553-20527-7

  • Steve B

    Recently enjoyed Plague Year and the follow up Plague War by Jeff Carlson.

    Well written, exciting and with really interesting ides about the possibilities of nano technology. Plus a lot of the action is set in parts of Colorado I spent a week of my honeymoon in earlier this year. Really brings a story to life in your minds eye when you have been to the areas in the story.

  • Brian Swisher

    Greg Bear’s The Forge of God is a good ‘un…

  • Adam Maas

    @ Ted Schuerzinger : Lucifer’s Hammer is hardly ‘obscure science fiction’ when there’s been two major hollywood movies that were rather blatant ripoffs of the basic scenario (Armageddon and Deep Impact). It’s also one of the best known books by its authors, who are probably the two most prominent SF authors of the 70’s and early 80’s.

    SF, yes.
    Obscure, no.

    One of the best disaster books ever, yes.

  • andyinsdca

    My taste runs more toward real-life disaster books, stuff like the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, General Slocum, SS Eastland, etc. My favorite so far is “Chicago Deathtrap – The Iroquois Theater Fire of 1903.”

  • Ian B

    That film of Gordon Brown saying he’s fixing the economy, that one, you know, the one with Charlton Heston and Ava Gardner in it.

  • Sunfish

    Lucifer’s Hammer is a kick. I loved it. I’ve been trying to get my mailman to adopt the ‘trash day’ tradition.

    I also liked Heinlein’s Farnham’s Freehold.

    And there was this one book…In its first (online-only, mid-1990’s) iteration it was called “The Gray Nineties” and it was pretty good. Then the author wrote in a bunch of UN NWO militia conspiracy theories and re-titled it “Triple Ought” and it was mediocre at best. Then, he took “Triple Ought” and stripped out everything that was actually any good, and published what was left as a paperback called “Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse” which was utter crap. (Note to James Wesley Rawles, who may actually been reading this: you should have quit in 1996 when you were ahead)

    And in the unlikely event that I have any time in the next month to do any reading of my own (Yeah, Sunfish, it would help if you closed the dang laptop every once in a while!) I’ve got S.M. Stirling’s “Dies the Fire” waiting.

  • the other rob

    I’d have to say Hammer too. IIRC, they’re plotting a sequel, working title Lucifer’s Anvil.

    unsquander: I’m looking forward to their Inferno squel too.

    Ted Schuerzinger: A bit OT, but your reference to a Nazi Titanic reminded me of possibly the finest SF piss take of Naziism ever – Norman Spinrad’s The Iron Dream

  • Jay

    Hammer’s my own personal favorite as well. A couple others.

    Stewart’s “Earth Abides.”

    Kings “The Stand.”

  • Vercingetorix

    Greg Bear’s The Forge of God is a good ‘un…

    I enthusiastically second! Anvil of the Stars, Bear’s follow-on novel, is also awesome; I think it is one of those rare sequels which surpass the original.

  • Vercingetorix

    That’s an interesting review, the other rob, but it sounds depressingly, well, stupid. It appears that neither the reviewer or the author have any clue about the roots of fascism, leading to a morbid slog through a fantasy of a fantasy of a fantasy.

    As proof, the very evidence the reviewer somberly puts forward as a draw to fascism – the rise in hate crimes – would mark any good San Fransiscan’s blood allies as the center of the new fascism: Californian gays have in short weeks displayed more open hate towards Mormons/blacks/others than gays have received in return.

    Besides, hate is not necessarily integral to fascism. As Himmelfarb said, no Hitler, no holocaust.

  • sjv

    Yeah, Forge of God. And Day of the Triffids.

    More recently, Stirling’s Dies the Fire


    and its sequels are fun reads.

  • Alan Forrester

    The novel “I Am Legend” by Richard Matheson.

  • Dale Amon

    Although I love Hammer, I would go for the original novel of Earthly destruction: When Worlds Collide. A little dated perhaps but a riveting good read.

  • Donavon Pfeiffer

    ” The Legacy of Heorot” , due to it’s theme of man trying to control the balance of nature, not have full knowledge of what he’s screwing with, and the unintended consequences.

  • sjv, hat tip for Day of the Triffids.

    I will admit that I have not read Lucifer’s Hammer, but I plan to remedy that.

  • Laird

    Ditto for “Triffids”. It’s probably time to re-read it.

    I’ve not read “Lucifer’s Hammer”, either, but since everyone here seems to be endorsing it I suppose I should do so.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    For civilized disaster novels, 1950s Brits had the patent: “No Blade of Grass” (John Christopher), “Day of the Triffids” (John Wyndham) and, of course, “On the Beach” (Nevill Shute).

    It’s interesting how much of Shute’s work seems like science fiction now, when it was considered solidly ‘mainstream’ at the time.

  • veryretired

    Books: The Stand, Triffids, Fail Safe, On the Beach, Hammer for all the cited reasons, The Hab Theory, The Postman. I’m sure there are more I will remember now that I’m thinking of this, but that’s a good start.

    Movies: Fail Safe, Strangelove, The Birds, original versions of Poseidon Adventure (Gene Hackman) and The Time Machine, The Postman and Waterworld for something to watch with popcorn on a rainy afternoon, Armageddon, if there’s some popcorn left.

    Documentaries: The Civil War by Burns, and the great BBC series, World at War, with narration by Olivier.

    History: A Distant Mirror, The Calamitous 14th Century, by Tuchman.

    And, finally, as an antidote to the endless doom and gloom hysteria, The Skeptical Environmentalist.

    Sorry if I went a little far afield.

  • Nick E

    Movie: “Children of Men”
    Book: “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Philip K Dick

  • Nick E

    Movie: “Children of Men”
    Book: “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Philip K Dick


    “The Audacity Of Hope” by Barack Obama.
    “America Alone” by Mark Stein.

  • RW

    Good to see some of my favourites here. Slightly O/T, I read the latest William Gibson (the originator of the term cyberspace) this summer. He has moved off science fiction – at which he was superb, with his own unique style – and moved to the cutting edge of the present.

    I thoroughly recommend Spook Country. A thriller, of a sort, I suppose. Fantastic and wonderfully enjoyable denouement. And, remembering a recent blog here, with references to CIA involvement with pirates…

    Go for it, guys and gals.

  • sjv,

    I just couldn’t buy the premise in S.M.Stirlings’ “Dies the Fire”. Got about 3 chapters in and gave up.
    OTOH his “The Domination” is outstanding politico – sociological disaster on a massive scale.

  • Brass

    I really enjoyed Ben Bova’s Test of Fire.

  • Fiftyville

    I’m rather fond of “Rolling Thunder” by John Varley. It’s the third in his Red Thunder/Red Lightning series.

  • Nuke Gray!

    If you want comic world disaster, we had an Australian SF novel called ‘The year of the Angry Rabbit’. It was all about a strain of Myximatosis which gave Australia an unbeatable edge in germ warfare- unfortunately, it didn’t kill the plagues of rabbits, it made them much bigger!
    Hollywood got to it, and ruined the whole book by treating it seriously. The movie was worth ignoring.

  • nevermind in PDX

    “Fallen Angels” (Niven-Pournelle-Flynn) written in 1991 portrays environmentalism causing a new ICE AGE, (uh, I mean climate change). It can’t happen here?

  • Will S.

    World War Z by Max Brooks is an interesting and well-written take on a worldwide zombie apocalypse.

  • llamas

    ‘What Happened to the Corbetts’ by Nevil Shute, published in the US as ‘Ordeal’.

    It so works as a disaster story because it is entirely truthful, entirely believable in the way that the reader could see these things happening to them – and because it unfortunately came all-to-true for hundreds of thousands of people within a very few years of being written.

    I have been privileged to read the unpublished first chapters of the novel that Nevil Shute was writing at the time of his death – the working title was ‘Incident at Eucla’, it takes place in Australia, and it looked set fair to be better than ‘On the Beach’ in that regard. Pity about that . . .



  • Duncan S

    Hammer was indeed good.
    I’d have to 2nd those who put “The Stand” as well.
    Also I liked “The Killing Star”

  • Malcolm Stevas

    Long-time fan of Niven myself, best SF author of recent decades IMO. Interesting to see a mention of John Christopher, neglected author in the mould of John Wyndham and almost as good. Glad to see someone mentioned Richard Matheson’s (not terribly good though interesting) novel from which was derived The Omega Man, entertaining post-apocalypse movie with Charlton Heston. First time IIRC I’ve ever read an Internet reference to Year of the Angry Rabbit, a worth-knowing-about but deservedly obscure novel by (the poster neglected to mention) Russell Braddon I’m pretty sure, Aussie author of the significant WW2 Singapore/Changi Jail POW memoir The Naked Island. Lots of good stuff here, my own recommendation being a slight but entertaining novel by Brit SF writer Edmund Cooper, All Fools Day. And the classic 1949 (?) novel by George R Stewart, Earth Abides, natch.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Uf Da! I just realized we all forgot “A Canticle for Leibowitz.”

  • MikeG

    Lucifer’s hammer definitely one of my favorites, and forge of god for a short story Howard Waldrop’s All about strange monsters– Godzilla giant ants and Martian fighting machines

  • Nuke Gray!

    Yes, Russell Braddon was the writer. I knew his name had a Russell in it! Whilst the book was good, ignore the movie!

  • Jim Gwyn

    There was also “Pulling Through” by Dean Ing which was one of the best books on personal/family survival of a nuclear war. It gave plans for real fallout meters, etc. Another classic post holocaust book was Pat Franks “Alas Babylon.”

  • MlR

    2008’s been pretty bad.

  • Whitehall

    I have to second “The Earth Abides” by George Stewart. Loved the descriptions of the ecological adjustments to the San Francisco Bay Area.

    Read it as a teenager and recently went back and read it again. It was almost as satisfying.