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Written by Creator/LarryNiven and Creator/JerryPournelle, ''Footfall'' is an AlienInvasion novel ''[[ShownTheirWork done right]]''. Set in a ''very'' [[MohsScaleOfSciFiHardness hard]] universe, it almost serves as a {{Deconstruction}} and {{Reconstruction}} of the genre.

The story is set in a slightly [[AlternateHistory alternate]] 90's period. The invading [[StarfishAliens Fithp]] are herd animals resembling baby elephants, with bifurcated trunks that end in 8 tentacles. Their GenerationShip, ''Thuktun Flishithy'' ("''Message Bearer''"), coming most likely from a planet around Alpha Centauri, runs on an advanced Bussard ramjet, and their intent is to conquer Earth and subjugate the human race... [[GenreBlind yeah]].

Their rather [[HowToInvadeAnAlienPlanet flawed plan]] is thoroughly [[{{Deconstruction}} deconstructed]] at various points throughout the novel, both by humans and by GenreSavvy dissident fithp.
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!Tropes in this work.
* AlternateHistory / TheGreatPoliticsMessUp: The novel was written in 1985, when the Cold War between the USA and USSR was still very real. It extrapolates that, in about 10 years, both power blocs will still be largely intact, and that a renewed interest in space exploration will have resulted in a network of laser sats orbiting the Earth, two Moon Bases (one Soviet, one American), and a large, ISS-like Soviet successor to ''Mir'' called the ''Kosmograd''.
* AmericaSavesTheDay:
** The military force at the end is American in nature, but since the USA was the worst-hit country by the invasion, they had to rely on significant outside help to [[spoiler: put together the ''Michael'']].
** To eliminate the fithp landing site in Kansas, the President of the US had to ''ask'' the Soviet Premier to launch nuclear [=ICBMs=] at it, since the US arsenal alone would have been shot down by the alien defenses. [[spoiler: Shortly after this the Soviet leadership gets killed by a [[StupidEvil KGB coup]].]]
* BadAss:
** The Russians Cosmonauts, especially Nikolai, who manages to be the most adept at Zero-G movement despite ''lacking both legs''.
** Congressman ([[spoiler: and later Herdmaster]]) Wes Dawson, as well, gets this nomination for [[spoiler: single-handedly [[NotQuiteDead almost-killing]] a high-ranking fi' in complete secrecy]].
* BlueAndOrangeMorality:
** The aliens and humans really don't quite understand each other's psychology, mainly because the aliens have much more of a herd dynamic. They instinctively surrender (by dropping their guns and going belly up) when outnumbered, surprised or separated from their herd. Likewise, being separated from a herd for a prolonged amount of time, or not getting busy with the females during mating season can drive them to a very real form of insanity.
** Once they surrender, they're instinctively obedient to the new herd, and they expect humans to behave the same. Once human [[LaResistance insurrections]] start in areas that previously "surrendered", they destroy entire townships as a corrective measure, thinking all those who would behave like this insane and dangerous. The notion of "conditional surrender" is ''alien'' to them, but they learn quickly that it's a lot more effective for keeping humans under control. Likewise, they don't understand why a battered humanity responds with total war (pretty much an unknown notion to them), rather than taking a DefeatMeansFriendship-type submissive relationship.
** They don't understand how or why you would possibly initiate diplomacy before first fighting to see which party was dominant; for this reason they ''bomb the sh*t'' out of the US and USSR as soon as they arrive, ignoring all attempts to communicate.
* BreakOutTheMuseumPiece: The guns from museum-ship Battleships are pulled out of mothballs to fight the fithp, [[spoiler: both on the ''Michael'' itself and parasite ships built around each cannon]].
* TheCanKickedHim: A character is killed by holding his face in a toilet until he drowns.
* ChuckCunninghamSyndrome: Bob Anson, the thinly-disguised avatar of Robert Heinlein, is a member of the team of SF authors engaged by the White House to speculate on the threat of the aliens, but vanishes without explanation halfway through the novel.
* ColonyDrop: [[MeaningfulName Footfall]] involves [[spoiler: slamming a large asteroid into a planet]]. It's [[DontExplainTheJoke Meaningful]] because fithp surrender by rolling over on their backs while the victor places their foot on the defeated enemy's chest.
* CreativeSterility: Fithp science is less based around exploration and research and more based around examining the ''Thuktun'', large granite blocks left by their [[{{Precursors}} Predecessors]], and covered in writing about anything from making fire and aluminum, to taxonomy and biology and higher mathematics. One of them describes how to build a ''Bussard Ramjet''. The fithp are not ''stupid'', however, and they're quite aware that humans have the advantage of better understanding the stuff they're using. Advisor Fathisteh-tulk [[spoiler: is killed by one of the human prisoners when he realizes just ''how much'' the fithp don't know about exploiting space, and that subjugating humanity is the only way to enlist their knowledge to the fithp cause -- and that, if not subjugated, humanity would eventually subjugate the fithp]].
* DeadpanSnarker: The fithp head honcho, Herdmaster Pastempeh-keph.
* DeathFromAbove: For most of the book, the fithp use this trope to ''rule'' space and air. They use space-based lasers and the 'Rods From God', orbital [=KKVs=], to destroy Earth's military forces and insurgents, as well as dams and bridges (for some reason); later, after Kansas is nuked to defeat their first invasion they [[spoiler: land the eponymous 'Foot' (an asteroid) in the Indian Ocean to try to force Earth's surrender]]. In between, they routinely vaporize any vehicle bigger than a two-seater with rays from space.
* DefeatMeansFriendship: For the fithp, Defeat ''Always'' Means Friendship. Defeated herds are incorporated as slaves into the victor herds, their leaders become advisers to the victor's leaders, and the next generation born will hold equal standing in the herd. They expect that this behavior will hold true for humans. The one fi' who surrendered to the humans does ''everything in his power'' to help his "new herd", and some of the characters fear for his sanity if he finds out that the human leaders don't trust him without reservation.
* DramatisPersonae: Pretty much anyone of any importance is listed, by their particular cast grouping, at the beginning of the novel.
* DrawingStraws: [[spoiler: At one point in the fithp's past, a war between two rival herds threatened to ruin their planet's biosphere (''[[NeglectfulPrecursors again...]]''). To break the conflict, the heads of the two herds met and had a wager. They would cooperate in building a starship and the losing herd would have to board it and fly to Earth, leaving the winners to rule the planet]]. Thus the Traveler Herd began.
* ExcessiveSteamSyndrome: The spaceship [[spoiler: with an [[OrionDrive Orion-class nuclear engine]]]] that is indeed cooled by and powered by steam, also using jets of steam for attitude control. At one point one of the characters has to work to repair battle damage in an area made uncomfortably hot by a burst steam line.
* FrickinLaserBeams:
** The humans have a few on the ground and in orbit, but the fithp ones are massively more powerful and efficient, and make human air travel essentially ''impossible'' during the war.
** The fithp {{Space Plane}}s, the digit-ships, are lightcraft, meaning that they run on a pulsed fusion torch ignited by a powerful ground laser beam.
** [[spoiler: The ''Michael'' uses [[WaveMotionGun bomb-pumped gamma ray]] {{Death Ray}}s that run off the excess energy from its drive ignitions, effective at many, ''many'' kilometers away.]]
** Notably, given the hard sci-fi setting, lasers are treated realistically--in the space battle scenes, they are effectively long-range lamps shone on a target to heat it up (which the target copes with using cooling techniques) rather than bolts blasting explosively through armour at short distances like in soft sci-fi settings.
* GenerationShip: The ship the fithp arrive on is a very long range generation ship that operates with a Bussard ramjet.
* GodzillaThreshold: ''Thrice''. The aliens first land in Kansas (assuming that the US wouldn't attack their own breadbasket), and fortify their foothold so well that the US ''asks'' the Soviets to atomize it for them in a concerted attack. This forces the fithp to [[spoiler: perform Footfall, dramatically messing up the planet with a Dinosaur Killer, before landing in force in Southern Africa]]. In the end, [[spoiler: the US puts the OrionDrive ship ''Michael'' in orbit, nuking the coastal town of Bellingham a hundred times over during launch]]. Luckily, most of the population is evacuated at the last minute.
* HeroicRROD: During the climactic space battle, construction worker-turned-spacecraft-repairman Harry Reddington stays to fix a leaking steam shunt despite the fact that the steam escaping around him is raising his body's internal temperatures up above the point at which the human brain shuts down. He gets the job done, and manages to die shortly thereafter from exhaustion, just before a leak in his pressure suit would have killed him anyway.
* HumansAreInsane: The fithp quickly come to this conclusion. Humans maintain their old allegiances after surrender, and withstand isolation from their own kind for many weeks, and generally act in ways only a "rogue" fi' would.
* HumansThroughAlienEyes:
** The fithp reflexively remain submissive once they've surrendered to an opponent. They find it difficult to understand beings that will pick themselves up after a defeat and come back for a rematch.
** Being herbivores, the fithp think of a human's mouth as being filled with "wicked-looking teeth." One wonders how they'd react to the teeth of a great white shark.
** Breaker 2 is utterly baffled by the humans' need to cover their bodies with cloth, when it offers no obvious protection. He wonders if their skins are so fragile they'd be injured without cloth coverings, and whether the solitary dark-skinned man they've captured is suffering from such injuries.
** Being rather squat, massive beings, they're amazed at the humans balance. When a very tall, skinny black african warrior gets up on tiptoe (in preparation to hurling a spear), they wonder how he can avoid falling over right away.
* HumanityIsSuperior: It comes as quite a shock when they realize that humans, with fingers more dextrous that fithp digits, lower body mass, food, air consumption and technology they actually ''understand'', are a threat to the aliens if left unchecked. [[spoiler: It's how the fithp dissidents lose their argument against the war on Earth]].
* {{Insufficiently Advanced Alien}}s: Fithp technology is much more advanced than the humans', including automated robots, fusion reactors and laser weapons galore, but they skipped ''a lot'' of steps getting there. If they hadn't had a [[{{Precursors}} Predecessor]] artifact telling them how to build basically ''anything'', they probably would still have been at the hunter-gatherer stage of civilization.
* IntelligentGerbil: The Fithp have some particular resemblances, both physically and with their "herd" culture, to Earth's elephants. This is even [[LampshadedTrope lampshaded]] when the Fithp observe elephants in Africa and wonder why they haven't become Earth's dominant species.
* ItsRainingMen: A mass paratroop drop by invading aliens who looked like two-trunked elephants flying hang gliders and wearing platform shoes (designed to absorb the landing impact). The characters witnessing it start laughing when they see it... and promptly stop when they spot the guns.
* KineticWeaponsAreJustBetter: The primary weapons of the fithp are described as "crowbars dropped from orbit". For that matter, the personal weapons used by them are just scaled up versions of ordinary machine guns. However, they still use powerful [[FrickinLaserBeams lasers]] in their most logical application, as anti-missile and anti-aircraft weapons
* LanguageEqualsThought: The fithp language makes extensive use of inherent plurals, for example fithp (which means tribe or group or herd) and fi' (which means a person). This fact reflects a lot about basic fithp psychology.
* MacrossMissileMassacre: During the attack by the fithp, one of the main characters explicitly comments that the barrage of incoming alien missiles reminded him of a Japanese science fiction cartoon.
* MeaningfulName:
** Footfall.
** Project Archangel produces [[spoiler: the Orion warship Michael, explicitly from the verse "The Archangel Michael cast Satan out of Heaven"]]. Once it "goes public", a character who hadn't been in on the project places the reference within moments of hearing it and comments that it's a ''great'' name.
* MostWritersAreWriters: Several sci-fi authors, including clear AuthorAvatar versions of both authors as well as one of Creator/RobertAHeinlein, brought together by the government to help think up ways to fight an alien invasion.
* NeglectfulPrecursors: They were... well, kind of assholes. They trashed their home planet in one way or another, most likely through over-pollution, and either up and died off or bailed out, leaving behind granite blocks with inscriptions detailing their entire body of knowledge for whoever came after them.
* NukeEm:
** Kansas is hit with a massive nuclear bombardment to destroy the fithp base there.
** [[spoiler: The humans build an OrionDrive spaceship named ''Michael'' to combat the invading aliens. And since it runs on nuclear bombs, why not bring along nuclear-tipped missiles, nuclear cannon shells, and just for fun, nuclear-pumped Gamma lasers running off of the main drive's wasted energy]].
* [[spoiler: OrionDrive]]: Project Archangel, [[spoiler:the last ditch effort to win the war, as the fithp hold the orbitals]]. Whenever the main engine was in operation in the ensuing space battle, the onomatopoeia "WHAM WHAM WHAM WHAM quiet" was used. One of the crew describes it as "God was knocking, and He wanted in ''bad''."
* PossessionImpliesMastery: Subverted. Although the fithp have a great deal of advanced technology, compared to the humans, it turns out that they are a young race who found a cache of technological knowledge left by another, older species and built their entire civilization around it. But they never developed any kind of science and have a cultural tunnel-vision centered around the technologies in the cache; not only are they unable to analyze or extrapolate base principles from the ancient knowledge, but they cannot imagine or cope with a technology not laid out in detail for them in the cache. They know how to use it and that's all they know about it.
* PrecursorWorship: The Fithp gained all of their scientific knowledge from artifacts left by the Predecessors, a race that lived on their planet long ago. The Fithp worship the Predecessors as deities, with priests studying the artifacts to gain more information.
* PunchClockVillain: The fithp are {{Designated Villain}}s here, having come from across the stars to conquer Earth, but to their defense they're bound by mentality, circumstance and sheer herd inertia. The Traveller Fithp don't really have the option of returning home,[[spoiler: since they left it after losing a wager against an enemy herd that they were locked in a UsefulNotes/ColdWar with, leaving their enemies to rule the planet]]. There is a dissident faction among them that sees the War for Winterhome (Earth) as unnecessary, since they could just as well colonize the Solar System ahead of the humans, but even they realize that they need human help to do it in the end.
* RammingAlwaysWorks: In the final attack on the alien mothership, [[spoiler:the shuttle ''Atlantis'']] rams it, damaging [[spoiler: the alien's main drive, allowing ''Michael'' to catch them.]] This was also explicitly always the final attack option [[spoiler: for the Michael as well, as it was, literally, the last chance for humans to win the war]]. The crew all signed on with the expectation that they would likely die this way and [[TakingYouWithMe take the enemy mothership with them]].
* ShoutOut:
** At one point the narration uses the "FEAR! FIRE! FOES! AWAKE, AWAKE!" alarm call of Buckland from ''Literature/TheLordOfTheRings''.
** "You knew the job was dangerous when you took it, Fred." A clear reference to ''[[WesternAnimation/GeorgeOfTheJungle Super Chicken]]''.
** Likewise, "Shep is big gray peanut-loving doggie!" is straight out of ''WesternAnimation/GeorgeOfTheJungle''.
* SpaceWhaleAesop: Environmentalism/Luddism is treason against the human race, because it means even the dumbest aliens imaginable could enslave and/or exterminate us from orbit without even trying. However, Niven/Pournelle do provide lots of evidence for this, summed up as, "[[Literature/TroyRising Control the orbitals, control the planet.]]"
* StupidEvil: The [[StateSec KGB]] would rather negotiate with the ([[InsaneTrollLogic herd-minded, so obviously communist]]) alien invaders than with the capitalist dogs of the US. Fortunately, the Premier is a bit smarter.
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