The elephants are coming!!!


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45. Footfall by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

This is a fun SF alien invaders novel where the authors know the basic premise has been DONE umpteen gazillion times before, but are out to have fun with it anyway.

So, we have a variety of representative characters from among the invaders, the military and US civilians. We’re told this is a worldwide invasion, and get reactions to things that happen elsewhere, but we’re only shown the USA and a bit of Soviet Russia, this being from the Cold War era. This multiple unconnected POV set-up seems to be common to war novels, in my experience, as a way to show a broad spectrum of what’s going on. (In most cases by the end of the novel there is a loose web of connections between all/most of the POV characters.)

I really haven’t read that many alien invasion novels (yet – they seem to be coming through…) but I enjoyed this one quite a bit. The scenario fits together, and the characterisations and opposing cultures do too. The idea of the invading Fithp being a thoroughly herd-based society not able to understand the invididuality of humans at all works, and their herd culture is fleshed out. My quibble is that they don’t really seem to take much or any interest in Earth’s elephants, that they resemble so much, although those are mentioned.

Still, despite them nearly all being Americans we do get a reasonable range of human characters, between different branches of the military, politicians, journalists, survivalists, loners and others, as well as both influential members of the invasion fleet (including their leader and their main specialists on humans) and their foot soldiers. Ultimately, it’s the level of understanding of the enemy, or the lack of it, that will win or lose this war, and leave the humans in charge or chains.


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