©1976 Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle; (P)2008 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"A dazzling tour de force." (Poul Anderson)
"A fast, amusing and vivid book, by a writing team noted for intelligence and imagination." (Roger Zelazny)
This book was originally written in 1970's so some of the language is a bit dated. Additionally some of the characterizations of women are likewise from a time when the women's movement was just starting to raise the consciousness of individuals, so sexist language and sterotypes still pervade this book (ironically underscored by the male narrator doing female voices). Reading this book, you can almost visualize the gold lamae shirt (unbuttoned to the navel) and choker chain around the neck of its primary antagonist Alan Carpenter (or Alan Carpentier as its pronounced through at least part of it). Once you get past the dated elements, the plot is an interesting retelling of Dante's Inferno with reference to Dante throughout. As Carpenter trudges through the circles of Hell his guide explains to him the sins that each level punishes.
Throughout it all the most interesting thing is the constant questions of justice. How can a just God demand punishment for all ETERNITY for acts done in a finite lifetime? The value of this book is its attempt to grapple with this question. In the end it is as influenced by C.S. Lewis as it is by Dante (which becomes explicit in the sequel)and it is clear that the author is not the agnostic skeptic that his protagonist is. Still it ends up being an interesting discussion of a weighty issue.
Two things I would note. The book should be considered long midrash on Dante, as a result it does not move very quickly and if you are not intrigued by the religious elements in it, it will not be for you (as a professor of Religious Studies I ended up liking it). So while its categorized as sci-fi/fantasy its really more religious fiction. Second, on the upside if you have always wanted to read Dante but 14th century poetry is not really your thing, this is an entertaining way to get much of it and may compel you in the end to re/turn to the original.
I love this book. The audiobook is even better.
Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle paint an incredibly detailed, wildly imaginative and thought-provoking take on Dante's Inferno as seen through the eyes of a recently deceased science fiction writer. His theories on the whys and hows of Hell from the point of view of an agnostic are very clever and even gave me doubts at times as to whether they were really dead, and trying to make rational sense of the extraordinary experiences of Hell echoes what a normal person would feel like if dropped into Dante's imaginative take on hell.
I genuinely like Carpenter and Benito, and it was a pleasure watching their friendship grow. The assorted cast of other damned make for a colorful background as well, and it was great seeing the changes brought from this book take shape in the sequel, Escape from Hell.
As impressive as the writing is the performance - Tom Weiner does a wonderful job of narrating the story and the characters, adding an extra dimension of tone and depth to an already thoughtful book. I'd want this man to narrate my life.
All in all, a fantastic book and an even better audiobook. I'd also highly recommend the sequel, Escape from Hell.
A modern-day journey through hell with Benito Mussolini as your guide? What could be more bizarre. Revisiting this story 45 years after I first read it? Priceless! Listening to if after re-reading Dante's Inferno? The best.
Dante's Inferno, of course. This is a bizarre twist on that tale with a science fiction writer as the protagonist.
This was a pretty straight-forward reading. There really wasn't anything special about it.
No, because I was paying close attention to correct my 45-year-old memory of this book.
I don't know whether this book is a classic or not, but was a great read. A journey of growth on a trip through hell. Even though hell isn't real and there is no life after death, it's a great topic for fiction.
Interesting read, well written and humorous. I found it entertaining to listen to, and was well read. It is not as detailed as Mr. Nivens other novels, but worth the listen. This is a short review, I am aware, but I am not inspired to write a longer one. It is about one guys travel through hell, the people he meets and his personal discovery, which is a large part of what hell seems to be about.
I read Inferno years ago. I was skeptical that an audiobook could rival my own minds eye from the read page. I was surprised and amazed by the vivid nature of hearing the spoken word. I would recommend listening to anything once read to gain new insight and watching a 'mind's eye' sequel to past experience. Still glowing from this scorching modernization of Dante's classic.
I was expecting a science fiction story. But I didn't quite get it. There was science and well... the fiction I'll leave that up to your judgement. The books outlines a journey through hell trying to apply logic to Dante's vision of hell. I learn science, I questioned beliefs. And I'm still non the wiser.
I bought this book because of my love for the writings of Niven and Pournelle who introduced me to great science fiction years ago. It tells the story of Carpenter, a science fiction writer, who finds himself in Dante's hell and initially thinks it is something created not by God, who he doesn't believe in, but more as a science fiction world. Lessons are learner, companions are added during the journey and beliefs are questioned. I had trouble getting into the book as I had forgotten the review and was looking for a different style. Once I got into it I had trouble turning off my Ipod. The narration was great
A friend recommended this book to me and I would certainly recommend it to a friend. Some might have difficulty with it as it challenges some preconceived notions about religious ideals, but this is what kept me listening -- I wanted to see where it was going.
Some of the reveals of the characters really came out well in this book. I can't say too much or you won't have something to look forward to.
I first read this book on a jersey shore beach vacation in the mid 80's when I was a teenager and from that point I was hooked by the authors and this form of fiction.I have since read all of Niven and Pournelle's work and listened to the few available audiobooks offered by the authors and Inferno is still my favorite book after all these years! To describe Inferno wont do it justice, you just have to jump in. I will say, however that the authors have turned the much feared revelations version of hell into an adventure. I'm not sure Dante would have approved but I am sure he would be amused.
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