Google Books

You are currently browsing ENGL 459 posts tagged Google Books.

mountain Observatory

According to Google books, the word or noun mountain shows 29 times. In plural it shows 43.Besides the fact that this term is the name for Tim Hamner’s observatory, I am speculating that it is not by accident that the authors refer to as the “mountain observatory.” As we know that the repetition of words in literature many times serves the purpose to highlight a particular idea. In Lucifer’s Hammer, the first reference appears on page 8, “Tim began telling her of his mountain observatory.” In the following pages there are several more references such as “freeze-dried mountain food”… “It gets cold in that mountain observatory.” For instance and to reinforce my suspicious for this noun, one of the major character in this novel Tim Hamner has a conversation with Mark(biker) a minor character: “Sometimes we keep mountains up there. I even have an observatory on one of them. But I guess Hertz-A-Mountain has taken them back today.” What I found interesting in this dialogue is that this character mentioned mountain twice.

 I think that the reason why mountain or mountains appears so often in this novel is because of symbolism or foreshadowing intended as literary devices by the authors. The symbolic meaning of a mountain is huge under the context of this novel because of its major themes like survival or struggle to survive. Besides, a mountain is an explicit object or an image that can be used as a figurative language. In terms of foreshadowing, it could be that the author’s intention is to provide hints of who will survive.

 I feel that the possibilities are endless once we start observing and analyzing this noun. It could be to set the novel’s tone or it could convey verbal irony. The novel itself is a very complex one that has so many themes and characters.


just breathe

Well, I wrote this up yesterday before I went home, but apparently closed down my computer before it finished posting. My bad.

Breathing: it’s simple, and it happens more or less automatically. With the Hammer strike, I would have thought that many of the characters would find good occasion to breathe, whether to calm themselves down, or clear their heads, or what have you. But the term “breathe” occurs only twice in the novel, and not in a helpful context. Hamner is “almost afraid to breathe” (LH 382) as he and Eileen search for the embankment leading up to the railroad tracks, while Delanty “tried to breathe” (LH 451) as he and several others raid a flooded supermarket filled with dead bodies. There is no use of the word in the novel as I would have imagined it be used. No one recommends to a panicking friend that he or she “just breathe” for a second, and no one, on passing through some near-miss disaster or in succeeding to make it one more day after Hammerfall, thinks to “breathe easy” for a while. The entire novel seems to be one long, bated, and fearful breath.

The term “breathing” meanwhile occurs 9 times, but far more often than not it is associated with troubled breathing. Again its use stresses the atmosphere of strife resulting from the Hammer’s impact with Earth; yet, would it be a stretch to argue that it also conveys a sense of urgency? The lack of any time taken for a restful or relaxing breath reflects the busy chaos of the world after Hammerfall, where stopping to catch one’s breath could mean the difference between survival or death.


With a whopping 83 appearances within Lucifer’s Hammer, Id say the word, demanded, deserves a little notice. While the verb is used fairly regularly in this novel, that is to say, it preforms the same function as the word, said, (e.g. Tim said, he said, one said), it is interesting to notice the increase in frequency of its usage after the Hammerfall. Only 11 of the 83 appearances of, demanded, occur before the comet strikes, a measly 12% of all Lucifers Hammer many demands. The increase in demand seems extremely reasonable when one considers how the dwindling supply of [survival] goods is negatively affecting the population; moreover, demands seem to be more concentrated in either hectic or desperate times.

While The Anvil has only 11 appearances–generally demands about the status (if the comet will hit, and where if it does) and preparation (staffing of flight crew, female free fall [nice alliteration, no?] urination) of society for the Hammerfall–The Hammer boasts a generous 21 occurrences, many of them simply frenzied questions (What the hell is it, Johnny? [pg. 191 ], What the fuck was that? [pg. 196], Pay with what? [pg. 297]) that constitute demands only in that the questioners are unsettled and agitated enough to, demand, rather than, ask. The heightened presence of demands in Part II is also marked by the speaker generally requesting urgent information (a smart decision, no doubt, when the apocalypse is presently beating down your door), and often information regarding the condition of the physical world (Anyone [going] into the valley? [pg. 240], How many of you are there? [pg. 203]), as well as the status (mental/skill) of the surviving inhabits (How can Baker be so calm? [pg. 216], How good a driver are you [pg. 238]). The impact of the comet has upset a flow of information within civilization, restricting its supply and therefore increasing survivors demands for any and all information to go around.

On the same vein, it would make sense that demands seem to relax in The Quick and the Dead (12 appearances) as a result of survivors possessing enough information (read: supply) to make moves forward. While the comet eliminated all flow of information for a time, Part III sees the valleys survivors pulling all information together, building a stronghold, sending teams to collect (the last) supplies (on Earth), and therefore regulating their demands accordingly. In fact, only 25% of Part IIIs demands are made by major characters, the other 75% belonging to minor characters like the ranger and Jack Miller who are obviously going to be more inclined to make demands, possessing less information than those like our dear old Senator Jellison or George Christopher or Harvey Randall. Additionally, we begin to see characters demanding less directly answerable questions and explore the realm of more philosophical queries (Whats going on out there? [pg. 329], What do you mean by that? [pg. 330], You ready to see your kids starve? [pg. 351], Why the hell should you hold my gun? [pg. 397]).

After Doomsday again amps up the presence of demands, having 35 occurrences. (Note: Having neglected the reading for next Tuesday as of yet, my conjectures here are just that.) Characters again seem to fall back in the habit of hastily asking questions of those around them, desperately attempting to stockpile information from all available subjects like where theyve been and who theyve seen/know, as well as incorporating curse words into the diction. This leads me to believe that like Part II, Part IV chronicles a time of great deficiency (supply/information) in the Post-Hammerfall civilization. While Part III was soon enough after the disaster to restore order with the distraction of rebuilding civilization, I have a feeling Part IVs overwhelming demands result from this restored civilizations imminent demise at a further lack of supplies.

Overall, I feel, demand/ed acts as a good indicator for the level of desperation (see: lack of supply) being experienced by civilization in Lucifer’s Hammer. Sure, sure, demand/ed, generally implies that one is making an insistent, peremptory request, but the demand seen here is so much more explanatory of the communitys status than characters individual, or personal, situations.

[Oh, and one last, possibly superfluous point, but the first and last instance of, demanded, within Lucifer's Hammer are made by the same man: Senator Arthur Clay Jellison. This fact is interesting in that it may stand in direct opposition to most of what I have previously stated. If demands are being made by those with the least information, in order to compensate for, and even relieve, a lack of supply, do Jellisons consistent demands throughout the novel suggest that he is, in fact, one with the least supply (read: information)? How, then, does he become such a competent leader, being so uninformed? Perhaps this is actually what makes Jellison a good leader? In it that he has the capacity to filter and organize information and then distribute tasks amongst followers, despite not actually discovering any of this information himself. In Jellisons case, does making demands actually work out for him, in that he can increase his supply, while others are seen making fruitless demands?]

Tags: , , ,

“Fuck” can be pretty much any part of speech and indeed can be used for every word in a sentence, i.e. “Fuck the fucking fuckers.”  Lucifer’s Hammer is a lesson in the uses of the English language’s most vulgar word, but its use is not meant for shock and vulgarity.  Fuck is a very strong word used to express the strongest of emotions, hate, love, tragedy, fury, etc.  In the book it is used 16 times as an adjective, “fucking”, and 10 times as a noun or verb in the past or present tense.  Most of the time it is used in Alim Nassor’s viewpoint sections or John Baker’s sections in Hammerlab, but as the story progresses after the impact more and more characters find that the only way to react to their problems is by throwing up their hands and saying, “Fuck it.”  Also after the impact the use of the stem-noun “motherfucker” becomes far more common, further exhibiting that the breakdown of civilization is such an intellectually staggering event for the characters that more diplomatic vocabulary is often set aside for the more stress-reducing power of using the “f-word”.  I think it is possible too that the author in his 70′s environment might have thought that black people swear more than white people since “fuck” is in every other sentence of Alim’s sections, then again it might be that any racism is purely incidental to the reader’s own perspective; maybe I have some subconscious racists stigmas about black people and swearing.  A caveat to the “blacks swear more than whites” claim though is that men swear more than women except in the few cases where Maureen talks about her or other women’s sexual habits.  The increased use of the word in the latter half of the book is meant to clearly counterpoint the devastation of civilization and reversion to man’s primordial selfish instincts with the previous state of high-civilization news networks, politicians, and billionaire cocktail parties.

Tags: , , ,


“Star” 18 results.
“Stars” 35 results.

Stars, as in the hot balls of gas (crudely put) seemingly fixated millions and some billions miles away, appear just around 50 times in this novel. Stars, as in celebrities and popular figures in society, appear just handful of times. What’s interesting isn’t so much the shifting meaning/symbol of this word (particularly in the former definition) but the spread of the word itself throughout the book. 80% of the 53 appearances (42 times), the word star/stars occur prior to the Hammerfall. That means 42 out of 53 times it appears, star/stars is crammed into the first 200 pages while the latter 400+ pgs sparsely share a meager 11 occurences. In fact, the word ‘star’, after the Hammerfall, is never used again as a reference to the balls of hot gas instead it’s only used as a saying “…bird flashed across the sky like a shooting star” (pg. 327). For the word ‘stars’, I would only be constructing meaning from assumptions if I assert that the author(s) had in mind any purpose and dividing the stars throughout the book in this manner. What does happen however, is that prior to the Hammerfall, stars are seen in scientific/observed manner: photograph of stars for study/analyzing (p. 53) and Sharps talking about the importance of stars (p. 55). Also, stars also seem to symbolize a sense of hope in this novel. This is an obvious remark since if the stars were to blot out (in conjunction with the phenomena of the Hamner-Brown comet) would herald the possibility of the Earth taking a direct hit. In an idealized sense, as mentioned in my previous blog about the rural setting, this idea of stars being a sense of hope (or at least a bigger sense of awe rather than of chaotic portent) is captured when Harvey is in awe of the starry sky in the countryside. (p. 126). In contrast, post-Hammerfall, stars are not seen or choked out a seen in two cases:  “Time rarely saw the stars” (p. 489) and “A few stars showed through the overcast… …points of light too far apart to recognize as constellations” (p. 578). Adding onto this interpration, it is readily accepted that stars are a symbol of guidance simply for being used as reference points for navigation and also, for some, as signs for paving one’s future. If stars are less and less seen post-Hammerfall, and in cases they are seen happen to be moments of being blotted out – perhaps, it does add to the bleak setting a post-apocalyptic scenario may have.


The “Chunk(s)” of Degradation

A chunk, of something, chunky peanut butter, a chunky person; the word chunk can be used in many a’ context. Comfortably, the word “chunky” in Lucifer’s Hammer is usually referenced in terms to the comet, Hamner-Brown, or some damage that has occurred in the storyline due to this comet hitting the earth.    Comets are massive objects, so chunky could obviously be a good description of what a comet would, could possibly feel like. Sharps says, “They’ll be embedded in the frozen gases and water ice. It would all hit as several solid masses. Not as a lot of little chunks” (85). He says this when explaining the possible trajectory of the comet and what its effects could be on the planet. The comet is also later described as having “mountainous chunks” that would be volatile if they came in contact with earth (186).

The damage that is caused by the degradation of the comet is also many times referenced to be “chunky”. “A chunk with part of a bay window in it had dropped through the passenger section of Hamner’s car” (235). Here we see the degradation of housing, and structure from the effects of the chunky comet. It’s almost as if the reader can automatically assume that when they read the word “chunky” in any portion of the novel, that they can either already tell that it’s describing the content and structure of the comet, or that somehow danger is looming just around the corner for one of the ill-fated characters—if it isn’t at their feet at the time! Later again, the word “chunky’ is used to describe the destructive degrading force of Mother Nature to describe mud that is beginning to cover a bridge (351).

For the most part the word follows its normal association pattern, in one instance the word is used to describe meat, as Harvey pulls the chunky piece of food from out of his bag (415). This is an instance when the word “chunky” is used to describe the size and not the texture; thus perpetuating the theory that the word “chunky” is only used when describing the actions, or rather reactions, of Earth to the comet striking or to the actual texture of the comet itself.

Therefore, justly, the themes that are co-represented with this word are destruction, degradation, chaos, the ending of the world, loss of the old. Every moment in the novel that uses the word “chunky’ follows with someone either dying or grave chaos ensuing, a comet nearing its impending target, or the disastrous force of nature.


shades of gray

I had a hard time deciding what word to write about in my blog this week. I finally decided to do a search on the terms “black”, which appeared 88 times; “white”, which appeared 85 times; and then, finally, “gray”, which only appeared 24 times. I found this interesting because so much of the book is dedicated to shedding light on the indefinable areas of life that cannot be categorized, such as whether the comet was a good thing to happen to earth, or a terrible thing. After searching the word “gray” and looking at what terms came up, I decided I finally had my blog topic.
The main thing I noticed was that “gray” almost always was an adjective used to describe light. It even applies twice in one sentence on page 380, saying, “For as far as they both could see in the gray twilight there was nothing but a silver-gray expanse of rain-splattered water”. Furthermore on page 434, the sentence reads, “the view went from gray-white gradually to gray-dark”. There are occasional references to gray being the color of Sen. Jellison’s hair (p. 513) or the color of Harry’s worn uniform (p. 507), but for the majority of results, the word “gray” was in reference to the color of the sky or the color of the light that the sky produced.
I can’t help but think that this is intentional. While in class we studied the opposing categories that this book deals with at the surface (male vs. female, science vs. entertainment, US Democracy versus Soviet Communism), there surely is so much about the disaster of the comet strike that cannot be lumped into a nice, neat category such as “Good” or “Evil”. For instance, we cannot honestly say whether this will make life better or worse for future civilizations. We really aren’t able to comment on whether this makes life better for Maureen, or whether Eileen is happier now that she has lost her independence. There is chaos and confusion that comes with the strike of the comet, and I think that the color “gray” is frequently referenced, particularly in natural images, to underscore the fact that we can’t always categorize life as neatly as we would like to.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Memory and senses alert you to the familiar. You “recognize” something when you have had previous experience of knowledge with a thing or a situation. In an unfamiliar situation, you know, such as a comet destroying half of the world, recognizing familiar people and situations could be a key to survival. The word “recognize” appears in Lucifer’s Hammer fourteen times. If you want to get passive, “recognized” appears twenty-four times.  They all appear in the context you would think, and they mostly pertain to people.

Out of the thirty-eight ways this term is used, my favorite would probably be “Then a worse thought: I could be recognized. As the man who invented the Hammer…” (235).  Obviously this is Tim thinking this right after the impact and the immediate aftermath.  Tim realizes that if he is recognized some sort of panicked riot could ensue and he would be suffering a more personal disaster. This is why he disguised himself as a reporter, etc., until he was rescued.  He recognized that he needed to make himself unrecognizable.  Anyways, it might have sounded a little more compelling in my head.

Speaking of recognizing things from past experiences, Harvey Randall was able to identify that the Brotherhood was using mortars to attack the Stronghold (580).  Not that it’s particularly useful knowledge in present every day life, but at least he was able to put a finger on exactly how they were being attacked.  I would imagine this, what could be considered, useless skill turned out to be something relatively valuable in this new kind of living situation.  He had enough sense to recognize what was going on and led a few people to temporary safety (as far as I know).

I mean, I guess this is kind of a weird word to pick. But I think without recognition (which only shows up ONE time, btw.) some of our favorite characters from this ripping adventure/disaster novel wouldn’t have some of the advantages that they have used for protection.  It’s better to recognize a threat to your life than not, right? I guess the more the characters knew about the world around them pre-hammer, the more they are able to recognize patterns, things and behaviors post-hammer.


“urgency” in Lucifer’s Hammer

The word I choose in the book was the word “urgent.” Seemed like a pretty good choice, considering it’s a novel about disaster, but the word “urgent” only appears 9 times in the novel.

While 9 does not appear to be a signficant number, the meaning of the word changes as it is carried through  the novel.

The first time we see the word “urgent” (p21)  is in reference to some memos sitting on Barry Price’s desk, and the connotation given to the word is one of sarcasm, since there are a pile of them, it is quite obvious that Price feels comfortable getting to them whenever he has time.

The second time is on p 149 when Jellison is pleading with Tom to downplay the possibility of the comet hitting the earth. Jellison’s voice is “low and urgent” and while it is clear he doesn’t view the comet as any sort of real danger, he doesn’t want the public to become panicked with the knowledge that the comet is much closer than expected.

Next, we see the word on p 178 describing Officer Larsen’s impulse to become a screenwriter. Retrospectively, it seems a silly urgency, as screenwriting won’t be helpful to a world in the midst of disaster. In its current context it just seems to be a selfish urgency, an impulse that isn’t really very urgent at all.

Then came the comet.

Each of the six remaining uses of the word “urgent” (p 248, 253, 300, 323, 374, and 582) ring of a desperation that only a life threatening disaster could bring. The word is used to describe Forrester trying to run down the hall to escape the building’s collapse, Hamner’s voice directing Eileen out of danger, etc.

I think that although the word “urgent” only has a grand total of 9 debuts in the entire novel, it’s sparing use makes it that much more significant, because it definitely illustrates the way the meaning of a word can change after disaster has struck.


Where are all the “leaders”?

So, I have to admit, I was expecting to see the word “leader” in Lucifer’s Hammer many more times than 14. For a novel that, at its heart, seems to be talking about human society and bootstrapping ourselves out of disaster it seems as though there should be more instances of it. What’s telling, however, is the context that leader is used in.

Of the fourteen times that “leader” is used in Lucifer’s Hammer, it is never used positively. It is used as part of Stalin’s titles, to describe people doing morally suspect things (Alim, the Comet Wardens) or, in the post-Hammerfall part of the novel, to describe someone who isn’t actually as important as they think they are. Leaders are presented as transitory or actively evil.  Alim is described as a “natural leader” (73), but it then goes on to say “He hadn’t been busted since juvenile days”(73).  So what makes Alim a natural leader?  Is it his intelligence?  Tim Hamner and Dan Forrester are incredibly intelligent, but they aren’t natural leaders.  We’re asked to accept Alim as a leader, as someone who was born with innate leadership qualities, but those qualities aren’t described in any way.  Senator Jellison, who takes a clear leadership position, is never actually referred to as a leader — the only time he and ‘leader’ are associated is when Tim is imagining him in formal morning attire shooting people (388).

Does this mean that Lucifer’s Hammer is more about the complete destruction of humanity, both as a civilization and as a concept? We’ve not seen too terribly much in the way of humanity being shown to others, and when humanity is being shown, it’s not the leaders being humane.  Usually it seems to be the women, and one has to wonder if it’s being shown as a feminine weakness or as a human strength.


static, a. and n.

Google Books: 14 results.

*Atmospherics; radio noise.
*Fixed or held in place, on the ground, etc., freq. in contrast to something that can move; stationary, not mobile.
*Pertaining to forces in equilibrium, or to bodies at rest: opposed to dynamic.

(OED Online)

The word “static” is defined in Lucifer’s Hammer as interference during radio communication. Static in the story begins as an alarm. A disruption. The sound of – wait for it – IMPENDING DOOM! Speakers “scream” when the comet hits. “The Hammer has fallen,” says Dan Forrester on the page where the word makes its first appearance. What was once just speculation and fear is now tangible … er, audible … through static. Eileen’s portable radio is described as “undamaged,” an ironic detail that speaks to the idea that traditional means of communication have drowned with the tidal waves.

For its listeners, the sound confirms (and confuses) the comet’s arrival, adding to the atmosphere of chaos, the tension of an uncertain future. Having retreated into the valley, Senator Jellison with all his functioning devices, asks through the static: “Was the damned thing going to hit or not?” My favorite appearance of the word occurs when Eileen isn’t certain if she hears “Hammerfall!” through her radio’s static or if it’s all in her head – a nod to the word’s use in describing the movement and ambition of the mind. I enjoy the idea of “static in the head” introduced early on in the disaster. Who lets the noise overwhelm them? Who fights the noise off?

“No matter. There was no useful information. Or rather, there was, in that fact itself,” says the narrator. Static a fact in itself? Static is a dull, repetitive sound but this neutrality (non-noise?) is in itself valuable. A message has been sent. When we hear static in the story, it’s a brief sound; the radio device is shut off right away, heard long enough to remind its listener OK, I’m alone. I answer to myself. Now what? As its listeners adapt to Life After Hammerfall, static becomes a buzz, a quick update from a handheld radio. Static: a fact of new life.

When the noise you hear is limited to the people standing in front of you, the world shrinks. Static, while featured in grim and frustrating situations, is a lead-in to characters taking action in response to certain isolation. Rejecting static’s other definition, bodies following Hammerfall are seldom stationary or at rest. I predict that the sound fades as the characters adapt and rebuild. According to Google Books, its last appearance is on pg. 550: “Tim whispered rapidly: the radio gave mostly static, but it worked.”



The word “meat” appears fifteen times in Lucifer’s Hammer. With only one exception all uses of the word meat are literal. The exception is the word’s first use in the book, on page 35 when Harvey Randall is in the shower and, “he imagined himself as meat being massaged by hydraulic pressure.” This is a scene in which Harvey is trying to relax and momentarily escape from the outside pressures of overwhelming debt. The last use of the word pre-Hammer is by the astronauts. Johnny warns Rick that he is burning the meat to which he responds, “burn, baby, burn” (99). This could serve as a foreshadow to the Hammer itself as both of these astronauts end up being the ones witnessing a burning mass of rocks pummel the earth.

The remaining thirteen uses of the word meat are used post-Hammer and refer to actual meat. All of these instances seem to be linked to the notion of survival. Many times the meat being described or talked about is human meat. The horrifying notion of cannibalism is confronted. Some in this new society view it as a necessary vehicle of survival while it still of course repulses and deeply offends most. When not referring to human meat, it is animal meat that is being spoken about, often in the context of hunting or rationing. Food, meat particularly has become an increasingly valuable commodity in this post-Hammer world. It could represent the population’s physical ability to survive.

Obviously in today’s world, meat doesn’t carry such a heavy significance. Meat is, after all, the body and flesh of another, once living being. That can be easy to forget today because of how easily attainable it is. The people living in this post-Hammer world are forced to act more primitively not just in the procurement of meat since there are no more supermarkets, but in the ways of society since their civilization has been crushed.



Since reading this novel I have noticed a significant amount of words being repeated, but one word that stood out to me is “red”.  It is used 49 times throughout the novel to describe many different objects or situations.  One of the ways that “red” is used is to convey warning signs, both before and after the comet hits.  On page 217 “red” is used in an emergency message, saying “RED ALERT. RED ALERT. YOUR CONDITION IS RED.”  This use of the word “red” not only signifies danger, but also emergency and chaos, another theme that goes along with “red” throughout the novel.  

There are many instances of red clothing on many of the characters, such as the “red-coated young men” that Tim Hamner describes in the opening scene of the novel.  Another example of “red” being used to describe physical attributes of characters is Maureen Jellison’s hair. Her red hair is one of the things that stands out about her most and is often mentioned throughout the book.  It seemed to me that in all of the above instances of the use of the word “red” it is used to describe something that is almost untouchable.  For example, several men lusted after Maureen from the beginning of the novel.  She was seen as someone who was everything that their wives or significant others were not, making her a character that seems untouchable by both men and women.

Finally, the word red is used to describe many instances of fire and destruction, again, both before and after the comet hit.  I think that this adds a cinematic effect to the destruction that is brought about by the comet.  Often in disaster movies we see skylines filled with red, or explosions filled with the color red. Using the word red to describe disastrous scenes allows us to visualize the scene in our heads based on what we tend to see in typical disaster movies, helping to bring the novel to life.


“Neither eternal nor safe”

One of the topics repeated prior to Hammerfall that helps represent the novel’s themes of social chaos as well as to foreshadow events to come is that of Charles Manson. Although Manson is mentioned only twice within the novel, the invocation of his name in this context seems hardly a coincidence. The first time the novel mentions Manson is when the authors introduce the audience to Harvey’s neighborhood, casually mentioning that Randall lives close to where Manson “proved to the world that was neither eternal nor safe” (33). Although civilization before the comet strike, at first glance, is organized and civil, we see a range of concerns that significantly refutes this view. While Randall’s neighborhood appears quaint and neighborly, rape of an eleven-year-old girl, Loretta’s murder, robbery, and even notorious conspirators like Manson severely crack this façade.

The second time Manson’s name is mentioned is when Joanna, Mark, and Frank camp out to await Hammerfall. At this point Joanna has become so terrified by the comet over the horizon that she looks as if “expecting to see Charlie Manson running at them with a chainsaw” (213).  Just like Manson, the comet brings disorder and fear. And instead of presenting the audience with a stereotypical pastoral wherein the characters are safe from the collapse of LA, there is a sense that there are no longer any safe places to which one can escape.

Although Manson is not mentioned later on in the text, many of topics connected with him become more predominant as the story progresses. We see a commune that, like the Manson commune, attempts to escape societal constrictions. Then there is the brutal slaying of the Roman family, much like the murder of Sharon Tate and all at the home of Roman Polanski. Finally, we have the New Brotherhood Army under the guidance of Reverend Henry Armitage, who proclaims that the end of the world– vague relation to Helter Skelter—has come and that the survivors must cleanse the world. The reader thus becomes exposed to a scenario in which Manson family values come to fruition and any hope for normalization is under constant threat.


“Laugh” is a word that is used in everyday life to- more often than not- describe the audible, outward reaction to happiness or being tickled physically or by jokes. Something like that. However, interestingly but not unexpectedly, “laugh” begins to appear much more frequently in Lucifer’s Hammer after the comet hits. 26 results, 22 of which occur after the Hammer’s landing, and 24 of which are used to express bitterness, hysteria, and/or sarcasm. This word is not excluded to just one or two characters, but most applicable to the characters who survive the initial landing of Hammer.

“Automatically she brushed at her hair and her skirt before going outside, and she felt an impulse to laugh. She choked it down. If she started that, she wouldn’t stop.” (230)
“Johnny’s laugh was bitter…” (288)
“So that was it. End of the line. Tim sat beside the fire and began to laugh, softly at first, then in rising hysteria…” (388)
“He wanted to laugh, but he couldn’t…” (462)
“Deke Wilson’s laugh was bitter…” (501)
“Tim had an impulse to laugh, but he didn’t.” (532)
“Now everybody he loved was dead. The Hammer had got them all. He felt a crazy impulse to laugh: America’s record was still perfect. Not one astronaut lost on space duty…” (614)

It’s clear that the authors use this word to emphasize the terror and tension that the comet’s landing has impounded into the plot. They redundantly abuse “laugh” to create irony within passages, writing scene after scene of people laughing- or at least, having the sudden, innate urge to laugh- in sake of panic and hysteria and in desperation to relieve the overwhelming new world around them, with their comfortable old world dissipating before them.


« Older entries