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Publisher's Summary

The gigantic comet had slammed into Earth, forging earthquakes a thousand times too powerful to measure on the Richter scale, tidal waves thousands of feet high. Cities were turned into oceans; oceans turned into steam. It was the beginning of a new Ice Age and the end of civilization.

But for the terrified men and women chance had saved, it was also the dawn of a new struggle for survival - a struggle more dangerous and challenging than any they had ever known....

©1985 Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle (P)2009 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Take your earthquakes, waterlogged condominiums, swarms of bugs, colliding airplanes, and flaming what-nots, wrap them up and they wouldn't match one page of Lucifer's Hammer for sweaty-palmed suspense." ( Chicago Daily News)
"Massively entertaining." ( Cleveland Plain-Dealer)

What listeners say about Lucifer's Hammer

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    3,336
  • 4 Stars
    2,428
  • 3 Stars
    1,063
  • 2 Stars
    293
  • 1 Stars
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Performance
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  • 4 Stars
    1,791
  • 3 Stars
    608
  • 2 Stars
    131
  • 1 Stars
    57
Story
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    2,803
  • 4 Stars
    1,632
  • 3 Stars
    772
  • 2 Stars
    226
  • 1 Stars
    99

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Good story from front to back

I read Lucifer's Hammer when it first came out, and couldn't resist ordering it in audio. The authors do a solid job of storytelling. The hardest part of any end of the world story is maintaining a worthwhile story for the aftermath. Destroying the world is easy. Making the aftermath both credible and engaging is harder. Niven and Pournelle create characters with enough depth that you can care about them and they place them in credible and interesting situations. The narration is solid. As one reviewer noted, there are a lot of characters. In print, Niven and Pournelle provide a "program" at the front of their books so you can easily refer back and identify characters in the early going until you have them straight. That is missing here (it would be meaningless to read aloud.) Still, it doesn't take that long to place all the characters and the book is well paced.

It's an enjoyable listen that I'll return to from time to time. Worth the credit.

100 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

I read it 30 years ago, but couldn't stand it now

I was a huge fan of Larry Niven's work from the 70s and 80s. I read this book shortly after it came out in paperback about 30 years ago, and remember enjoying it. So I recently tried to listen to the audiobook version. I abandoned it, something I almost never do.

The problem wasn't the narrator, it was the story itself. It just doesn't stand the test of time. So much of the book is setup about the characters in their normal "current day" lives. Those might have sounded realistic in the 80s. But in 2017, they sound unrealistic and really, really boring. I cringed at the sexism of the character dynamics. I was just a teenager in the 80s, so maybe adults really did act this way to each other back then. But they don't today. It was enough to take me out of the moment and forget about the plot itself.

So, I'm giving this audiobook 3 stars. When I was 17, I would've given the book 5 stars. Now that I'm in 48, I give it 1 star. So 3 is a fair average.

81 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Great listening

I read this book twenty years ago, and it's always been one of my favorite "Apocalyptic" novels. I was so happy to see it released as an audiobook.
While some novels of this ilk don't stand up to the "technology test of time" -- written before the proliferation of cell phones and computers -- this one does, for the most part.
Niven and Pourelle's great characterizations make this a wonderfully compelling read, and one that is hard to put down. However, there are a LOT of characters, so it may help to go to a website that allows you to "look inside the book," and print out the beginning pages that list the "Dramatis Personae." Easier to jog your memory on a long listen like this one.

45 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Very solid book

Yes, it's a bit dated, but it's also the first book of the comet/asteroid as the end of the world genre. In that sense it's groundbreaking and definitely worth reading.

Some people may have difficulty with the first several hours up until right before the comet makes landfall. Yes, the book jumps around, but there are lots of characters to weave into the narrative. And believe me, the payoff is worth it.

42 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Well, it's better than "Armageddon"

There was a time when Larry Niven was one of my favorite authors. Of course, that time was when I was an immature SF geek who didn't read much else. Okay, I still think "Ringworld" was kind of awesome. And I have fond memories of some of his other collaborations with Jerry Pournelle, e.g. "Footfall" and "Oath of Fealty." But the last few I have read really unearthed things I didn't notice when I was younger, and this one, which was one of their early collaboration, really shows its age.

"Lucifer's Hammer" is fine plot-wise. In fact, I'd say Niven and Pournelle always do very well with the plots and the hard SF. This is an end-of-the-world post-apocalypse adventure, and I love those like candy. So I enjoyed it despite groaning every now and then at the authors', ah... issues.

Written in 1977, "Lucifer's Hammer" is your basic "comet strike devastates Planet Earth" scenario. The Hamner-Brown comet is spotted months away by a wealthy amateur astronomer, and as it approaches, excitement turns to apprehension as scientists keep revising the estimate of the odds of the comet striking Earth from "billions to one" to "millions to one" to "thousands to one," and... you get the idea. It is not exactly a spoiler to say that the comet does, in fact, strike the Earth — in fact, it fragments into pieces which land in massive strikes all over the globe. Pretty much every coastal area is wiped out, there are massive weather changes, tectonic shifts bring volcanoes to life, so yeah, pretty much the end of global civilization, as least for a few generations. It doesn't help that as soon as the strikes begin, the USSR and China launch nukes at each other. Thanks in large part to a joint US-Soviet space mission, with astronauts and cosmonauts watching the entire Armageddon playing out from orbit, they are able to prevent the US from launching and being targeted in return.

The remainder of the story takes place in California, where survivors in the San Joaquin valley go about preparing for the coming ice age and trying to rebuild what little civilization they can. Needless to say, this is complicated by both internal tensions and external threats from an army of anti-technology fanatics who practice ritual cannibalism, led by a mad doomsday preacher.

It's very exciting stuff, and also fairly realistic in how it approaches both the social and technological challenges of survival in a post-armageddon scenario.

So why only three stars? Well, for starters, there is Niven and Pournelle's usual problem with women. It was even worse in "The Mote in God's Eye," and I was (pleasantly) surprised that there was not a lot of gratuitous rape to spice up the fall of civilization, but the female characters all pretty much go into instant "Attach myself to the nearest alpha-male" mode, and one of the characters is even referred to (ironically, and with awareness of her role, which she does not particularly like) as the "Princess" because her Senator father is the current leader of the survivors, and whoever marries her will ensure the stability and succession of the dynasty. So there was a little bit of awareness there, and yeah, it was written in 1977, but still, one gets the distinct impression that when the Senator's aide reflects smugly to himself that one of the few good things about Hammerfall was that it put an end to "Women's lib," he's kind of speaking for the authors.

Oh, then there's the part about that cannibal army forming around a group of Black Nationalists who were going on a crime spree when the Hammer fell. The New Brotherhood Army eventually becomes a multi-racial, ostensibly egalitarian organization ("egalitarian" in the sense that anyone regardless of race who steps out of line gets killed and eaten), but the leaders are the Black Nationalists and a black former Army sergeant. Until a white preacher comes and gives them a cause - namely, fighting technology. So, let's recap: when the Hammer falls and ends civilization, white farmers, politicians, and engineers start rebuilding a stable community, while black people turn into rampaging cannibals taking orders from a white guy. Umm, did nobody see any Unfortunate Implications in this even in 1977? I suppose Niven and Pournelle's defense would be that not all of the New Brotherhood Army is black, and there is a black astronaut who's one of the good guys, and a few black farmers in the Stronghold are mentioned. Well, okay then.

There's also an awful lot of "neener-neener, how do you granola-crunching hippies like your 'natural living' now?" as the survivors of a former commune realize that gosh, they really did like having electricity and plumbing. Niven and Pournelle do this a lot, as in "Fallen Angels," where they spend the entire book poking at environmentalists and anti-space and anti-nuclear activists. In "Lucifer's Hammer," the only surviving nuclear power plant becomes potentially the salvation of civilization.

So, basically:

White people, nuclear power, and the space program = good.
Black people, religion, and women's lib: Bad.

I am being a little snarky here. The authors weren't quite as horribly axe-grinding as, say, certain authors of political thrillers or grimdark fantasy. But still, this is a book that you will enjoy if you like the premise and don't pay much attention to subtext, but will probably annoy you if you do notice things like ALL THE BLACK PEOPLE BECOME CANNIBALS!

Entertaining, suspenseful, a very good post-apocalyptic thriller for hard SF fans, and also slightly sexist and really (if unintentionally) racist.

40 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Very enjoyable

This was an entertaining audiobook, with a few key drawbacks that keep it from being 5 stars. First, as noted by many other reviewers, the narrator's female voices are pretty bad. They all come out sounding Southern. But I thought his male voices were well-distinguished, and the straight narration was good as well.

Secondly, the pacing of the story itself is a little strange. The entire first third is character introduction and buildup to the comet strike, then the second third is the strike and immediate aftermath, and the final section is the extended aftermath, including a kind of quick action climax that seems out of place compared to the general tone of suspense in the rest of the book. I felt the third part was rushed, while the first was too drawn out. That said, the writing is excellent throughout, and the various storylines intertwine in some unexpected ways. I put it in the same category as a fun summer action movie that turned out to be better than you expected.

39 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Half Decent

This is really a book of two halves. The first half, in which our rogue asteroid is treated as a character, given a backstory and such, details the oh-so-slow-and-boring approach of armageddon. It's not tense, it's not sweaty-palm inducing, it's just dull. Mostly uninteresting characters do mostly uninteresting things as scientist endlessly debate how close this big chunk of doom will miss earth by. Now, forgive me for nit-picking, but I really don't see the point of devoting endless pages to characters repeatedly insisting the event the book is written around isn't going to happen. I know it's going to hit; that's why I bought the story. By all means, spend a little time on such things but anything more is flogging a dead horse.

And when the comet does, finally, touch down, the book improves. The mechanics of destruction, the effect of Lucifers Hammer on the Earth are particularly well done and suitably 'wow' in their description, as are the cascade of events that follow such a massive event.

But then the book just becomes a fairly generic post-apocalyptic tale. Looting, pillaging, rape, murder, gangs, some trying to get the world back up and running and some trying to burn the last few bits of civilisation left standing. It all feels very familiar and contains, with few exceptions, very little that strays off the well worn path of post apocalyptic fiction.

The benchmarks in this genre for me are The Stand, Alas Babylon and Swan Song, two of which thread the generic end of the world story with the supernatural and are much better for it and the other, Alas Babylon, is just a better written, more interesting and more immersive tale. Lucifer's Hammer is just a bit too 'The A to Z of The Apocalypse' to warrant much of a recommendation.

The narration is good, though sometimes the narrator lacks the ability to make voices easily distinguishable, but that's a minor gripe. It's just a ho-hum story.

29 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Too many men talk themselves into hating thier

Wives. Just some wisdom from Larry and Jerry.
As far as Armageddon novels go this is in the upper middle. If you have already listened to Alas Babylon, The Road, The Postman, and One Second After and still want more then buy the book. There is nothing new in this book. This was written in 1977, way before three of the books I mentioned, but that don't mean you should settle. After this then read The Stand or The Mysterious Island.

After I put the book on fast play, I found I liked the book a lot better. More on that later. Harry the Mailman had to be an influence in David Brin's, The Postman. It is dated, pocket calculators are rare and cost $200 to $300 dollars and white men are Honkies. It runs a little long and seems to have a couple of endings. It is all about California, because those of us in fly over country don't count. There are some interesting characters and interesting situations.

With about 18 hours left to go I was dreading listening for that long. As a last resort I put the player on fast forward. That made my opinion of the book go up two stars. I hate to be tough on narrators, but they can make or break a book with there talents or lack there of. During the disaster his narration of the carnage, reads like a To do List.

24 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

End of the world + Payton Place + Indiana Jones =

Strange Book. Really wanted to like this, as I continue to search for books like "The Road" and "One Second After." The entire first section is nothing but set-up... goes on forever. Second part as event happens and the valley community is set up and organized is actually interesting. The third part part I just endured unable to suspend disbelief at all as the cannibles attack and they fight them off with mustard gas. The characters seem like cardboard sterotypes, placed on the event (the black, white, indians, female, smart, poor, rich, crazy and powerful) and everyone had "coupling" on the brain. Won't be reading again.

21 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

If You Flush Your Goldfish...

Finally I got around to this one, and though I may have missed out on a real blockbuster back in '77, I have to say it was a gas reading this in 2013! Being a teenager in '77, it was like reliving those *unenlightened days*--hippies, women libbers, politically incorrect Popeye cartoons. What dates it now doesn't hurt the story at all, but rather makes it kind of kitschy and well worth going back. Just like all the dings and scratches give an antique its character--the 70's give this a great patina you couldn't get from a modern day apocalyptic tale. Not better or worse--just wonderfully different.With the limited gore, sex, and bad language, this is a good novel for even a young SF fan to pick up, and learn about where modern apocalyptic literature (including the current zombie culture) started. (I hope all those Doomsday Preppers have this one under their belts.) Long, but easy, steady-paced listening that is still entertaining and a little unsettling.

20 people found this helpful

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Tara
  • 12-24-12

Best-of genre

I keep coming back to this book again and again. It's brilliantly written and a pleasure to read. The story is told from several different viewpoints and the characters all feel real and believable. The disintegration of society and way people's lives change after the hammer are well done. A little 1970s-ish in places, but not in a bad way. I expect I'll be reading this again (and again).

33 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Francisco
  • 09-09-13

A 1970’s take on the End of the World

Before Deep Impact, before Armageddon there was Lucifer’s Hammer.

The novel is Crichton-nesque in its foundation in real science and level of detail; they carefully build the story and it teaches you a lot about comets/meteors and the havoc they can cause.

It was told from a 1970’s perspective; but good story telling doesn’t go out of fashion and it actually it’s a bit interesting looking back it after 40 years it ages well, almost a period sci-fi piece.

The Authors Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle are very well read and they disperse at the beginning of chapter insightful quotes from various other authors throughout the book. It helps make for very interesting reading, and I think I’ve added several new books on my to-read list.

It does start slow, but you need to have little patience while he builds the characters for you.

After the strike the second story begins, and it is as riveting as the telling of the strike and preparation for it are. It held my attention to the end.
An Interesting and satisfying read.

24 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Mr
  • 07-24-13

Timeless classic

Where does Lucifer's Hammer rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

one of my favourite listens.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Harvey - trying to do the best he can in difficult circumstances

Which scene did you most enjoy?

Batlle scence at the end

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

how quickly life can change

Any additional comments?

really good book, not dated and tackles the real issues faced by humanity after such a catastrophic event. Good characterisation and I would love to see a sequel or movie!
Book went along at good pace.

14 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • J. K. Hardin
  • 12-23-12

Flawless

Disaster fiction at its best. Lucifer's hammer spends exactly the right amount of time building toward the cataclysm, and then continues to grip the reader all the way through. A page turner, so to speak, which I find rare for a book of this length.

(Also, personally, this satisfies my itch for post apocalyptic fiction, too, with the added fun of seeing how the 'apocalypse' happens.)

14 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • MAVIS
  • 04-07-13

Is this the end?

I saw this book and the narrater and knew it must be good. The many strands are woven together in unexpected ways. It is not until the last page that it all comes together and it leaves you wanting more. My kind of book. Not the armeggedon you are expecting.

12 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 12-14-13

Post-apocalyptic entertainment at its best!

What did you like most about Lucifer's Hammer?

The story kept moving and the various threads set up at the start of the story were woven into a believable whole towards the end.

What did you like best about this story?

A solid and reasonably detailed look at how the earth and humanity would be impacted by a comet strike. A fascinating topic to me and very well written by the authors.

Have you listened to any of Marc Vietor’s other performances? How does this one compare?

No, but his performance was good compared to other readers.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes, but that was pretty unrealistic given the 24.5 hours required for that!

11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Colin
  • 12-09-13

Comet one Earth none

The film they should have made instead of Armageddon.
The story follows the struggle for survival against nature and barbarism to retain civilization, after a comet hits the Earth.
Niven and Pournelle at their best.

11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Marc H
  • 06-08-12

A book of three parts - boring, ok and good

The first third of this book is pretty boring. Once things start to happen then the next third starts to become interesting as they realise what's going to happen and deal with the initial impact.

It's the final third which gets good.

11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Darryl
  • 04-16-11

An Older Story with Current Themes

This a story of the time! Tsunamis and earthquakes, whilst triggered this time by a meteor shower, gives a powerful image of what would happen. It's scary stuff, because it is based on scientific facts and we can all see just how devastating such an event would be. Scary also is how soon people revert to looting, violence and the law of physical might. It is survival of the fittest all over again. You cannot help thinking that we really have not moved very far forward in our evolution. It will make you think about much we rely on technology that is fragile and useless when fuel is not available. How good would any of us be in building from scratch? Where would the raw materials come from? What would you do with the raw materials anyway?
I certainly want to read more books from this legendary duo and luckily Audible has them available.

10 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Garethman
  • 09-04-12

Pretty good for a pre-silicon novel.

Science fiction does not usually age well, and this epic written before mobile phones, internet and laptops is strange and hard to get used to initially. But read in the same way as H.G.Wells or other historic science fiction it does pretty well. The introduction of the characters is somewhat long winded, but once the action starts it's a rip roaring listen. I liked the ideas behind the post apacalypse survival stuff suggesting how quickly humanity could return to the laws of the jungle. It has a few holes in the plot, but not enough to affect it in any great sense. Recommended.

7 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Michael Flanagan
  • 02-23-14

A Classic for a reason

Any additional comments?

This book is getting a tad long in the tooth, being first published in 1977. But age has not removed the shine from this classic apocalyptic novel. If anything I feel that the age of the book adds to the story and in places makes for some hilarious reading.

All this aside Lucifer's Hammer delivers a story of a world that is in the path of a comet. Mankind knows it is coming close, just not how close. The start of the book is used well in informing the reader about comets and the science of predicting their paths. Our main characters are well grounded and we get a good feel for them.

Then the world comes to an end and Armageddon is let loose upon the earth. We watch the survivors struggle to come to terms with their new reality. It is fascinating to see how they change. Some rise to the challenge and some lapse into depravity. The plot is not a new one nor does it comes as surprise. But what makes it a truly great read is how well the author tells his tale. Also the thought is always in the back of your mind that what you are reading may one day be your reality, which in itself is truly scary stuff.

This book did leave with one question. Why the hell was it no called hammer fall.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Keith
  • 07-26-22

fantastic

if the earth ever bites a comet, well I know how to make do. excellent story.

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-13-20

Looooong.

Long. Sad. Language outdated. Worth rewriting by a modern writer. Could be an Epic both literary and Hollywood.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-27-20

A pretty good end of the world story

The narration is really good and this old time classic follows all the principles of a bloody good story with structure, interesting characters, a plot, descriptive settings, the conflict and the resolution.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 09-06-19

Lucifers Hammer

The best SCFI book that I ever read is transformed into a brilliant audiobook, a great read and a better listen. 5 stars

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • David
  • 09-18-15

Boring, boring, boring

Slow as buggery, piss weak storyline, too many players who all do nothing. A total waste of time, how do I get my money back?

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Kman
  • 09-11-15

Terrible - The only book I have ever not finished

I am a calm person.

This book made me angry, I actually swore out a loud though shear frustration at the painful progression and boring characters. I found myself wishing the comet would come sooner just to wipe them out...it would be a kindness....at least to the listener.

I only gave it one star because I don't know how to give it zero.

Not only is this book not worth the money but I would pay aliens to delete the bits I have not been able to erase from my memory with beer.

Now I am stuck with it in my library and to this day I still get an eye twitch when I see the title....oh it can be that bad right? Wrong....it can, it takes talent to be this bad.

Mike.

.