Thursday, September 8, 2011

Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle's "Footfall" (novel, alien invasion)

Cover image of the novel Foot fall by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. Seen in image is an alien fi fighting some humans in US.
While I found it easy to put it down in early parts, it gets far more gripping once aliens arrive.

Story summary.

Aliens, from somewhere in Alpha Centauri system, begin attacking earth ("Winterhome" to them) as soon as they arrive - after a 12 year stopover in Saturn's rings undetected. Aliens that look like & are the size of baby elephants, only with multiple trunks that one human character compared with tentacles & who have vocal apparatus similar to ours. They call themselves "fi'" (plural "fithp") but Americans call them "Snouts".

Their primary fight is with the US since they recognize it is as the most advanced country, & secondarily with USSR. I'm puzzled why they had to destroy India by throwing an asteroid in Indian Ocean; it wasn't a party at all till then. This asteroid is called "Foot"; throwing it down is "Footfall" ... sort of ... an elephant trampling someone under its foot.

Of course, US military will eventually beat them.


  1. During the brief discussion of India, there is a curious reference to "Vishnu, the elephant god"! Why quote foreign mythology with such gross errors? Makes me wonder about all non-US references in the book.
  2. Story has "shotgun pellets made of spent uranium". I thought "spent uranium" is no longer uranium but is transformed to another element. What have I missed?
  3. Story contains a whole chapter named after, & in spirit of, William Tenn's 1963 story "The Men in the Walls" (novel version called "Of Men & Monsters").

Fact sheet.

First published: 1985.
Rating: A.
Related: Stories of Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle.


Larry said...

I think I have this book-its quite a size! Must give it a whirl sometime. As for the uranium-does the author refer to depleted uranium or a character?

Tinkoo said...

"shotgun pellets made of spent uranium".

morristreet said...

It does refer to Depleted Uranium, which is nuclear fuel that has already been through a nuclear reactor and has now been spent, or rendered unusable for further nuclear reaction. Still a very heavy metal, which was used by the A10 gunship to punch holes right through tank armor and burn the vehicles from the inside-out as DU is pyrophoric.
I found the description of the Orbital bombardment to be very creative, and indicative of Dr Pournelles' ongoing development at the time in the US Star Wars program. Their Project Thor used tungsten crowbars that were laser guided from orbit to impact. 9 miles a second was enough to take out a tank very quickly, with no residue. The other concept in the story was Michael. An Orion style Nuclear Pulse rocket the size of an office block, carrying space shuttles as fighter planes. Launched from the city of Bellingham, vaporizing the harbor in the process by detonating a chain of small nuclear bombs for propulsion, Michael chases the Fifthp mothership until the aliens surrender. The Project Orion they describe is a real concept that was developed in the late 1950's and tested to prototype flight stage. The prototype is now in the Smithsonian as Putt-Putt.

I,Writer said...

Seems like a good book, maybe I will read it. I have only read Ringworld by Larry Niven and I know of a few books he has written with Jerry Pournelle. But as far as I know Larry Niven is said to do a lot of research for his books...but Vishnu the elephant god? I think they meant Ganesh! Have to read this book!