The Jerry Pournelle series continues. This one is another collaboration with Larry Niven and another review probably colored by the circumstances I read a book under.

Raw Feed (1998): Footfall, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, 1985.Footfall

I found this novel overly long for its subject but not long enough to get into any pleasing, interesting detail.

Next to Fallen Angels, co-written with Michael Flynn, this is the worst Niven and Pournelle novel I’ve read.

Niven and Pournelle provide an interesting rationale while the alien Fithp try to invade Earth: they’re a young race who acquired space travel from the Predecessors, aliens who first evolved intelligence on the Fithp homeworld and then destroyed themselves. Thus the Fithp aren’t too bright or, at least, don’t think of any other option than to invade a planet instead of exploiting space.

But we don’t learn anything more about the Predecessors, really get into the dissension in the Fithp ranks, or learn a lot that much about the Fithp given the time spent on them other than they are herd animals who are used to fighting until a foe unconditionally surrenders for their whole herd.

Nor do we get, a lá Niven and Pournelle’s Lucifer’s Hammer, neat description of meteor devastation. [I suspect they thought they’d already written that story in Lucifer’s Hammer.] Most of it occurs off stage as does the combat in Kansas and its eventual nuking.

We don’t get a really detailed look at the Orion-style spaceship Michael.

We get more characters than is probably necessary and too many adulterous or sudden sexual liaisons almost as if, especially in the case of Jeri Wilson, the authors were trying to make a statement about human sexual bonding under stress and the need for women to bond to a strong man. [This a justified observation of human behavior but got too much emphasis.]

Another fault was the sudden mutiny against the president who made a reasonable decision regarding Fithp surrender. The groundwork for this plot development was not laid.)

The breakdown of the Soviet Union was not explained.

This book, according to an interview I read years ago with Niven and Pournelle, was supposed to have been written when Lucifer’s Hammer was, but the editor had them concentrate on Earth being bombarded thus the latter novel got written.

Some of the same type of characters show up here: politicians, survivalists (rather perfunctorily here), military men, reporters, playboys

The threat team of science fiction put together by the government was good and plausible.  The U. S. Department of Defense really does do consultations on future threats with science fiction writers and Pournelle and Niven have participated in that process.

I could identify several sf author surrogates in the threat team: Nat Reynolds (Niven), Wade Curtis (an early Pournelle pen name), and Robert Anson (Robert Anson Heinlein). I don’t know if the others were based on anyone specific. The name Joe Ransom sounds familiar. He could be Pournelle associate Dean Ing. Niven and Pournelle have been putting disguised sf figures in their book since Inferno, their second collaboration.

I did like some things.

I liked biker minstrel, Harry Reddington. I liked the eager reporter Roger Brooks being killed by environmentalist John Fox to protect Michael (especially it was an atom-bomb-powered spaceship. I liked smuggling guns to Zulus to fight the Fithp. I also liked the LA group of survivors.

Pournelle does the usual propagandizing for space though he doesn’t emphasize survivalism as much as I thought he would.


More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor.

2 thoughts on “Footfall

  1. Flavius Q. Zook April 19, 2023 / 3:57 pm

    The author of this review identifies Nat Reynolds (Niven), Wade Curtis (Pournelle), and Robert Anson (Robert Anson Heinlein). I concluded that the character Joe Ransom was based on Joe Haldeman since there is a bit of a pun in the name: “Haldeman” = “Hold-a-Man” as in “Hold a man for ransom”. I would be interested if anyone could identify the real people who were the inspiration for the rest of the science fiction writers in the story.

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