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Publisher's Summary

After being thrown out of the window of his luxury apartment, science-fiction writer Allen Carpentier wakes to find himself at the gates of Hell. Feeling he's landed in a great opportunity for a book, he attempts to follow Dante's road map. Determined to meet Satan himself, Carpentier treks through the nine circles of Hell, led by Benito Mussolini, and encounters countless mental and physical tortures. As he struggles to escape, he's taken through new, puzzling, and outlandish versions of sin recast for the present day.
©1976 Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle; (P)2008 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"A dazzling tour de force." (Poul Anderson)
"A fast, amusing and vivid book, by a writing team noted for intelligence and imagination." (Roger Zelazny)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall

Dante done in the 70's

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.

16 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Can't miss this

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.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael
  • Jupiter, FL, United States
  • 05-28-12

Dante's Inferno, the sequel...

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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Better the second time around

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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Journy through hell

What did you love best about Inferno?

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

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Second Read

This was a great read the first time. To hear it read made it so much better.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Where am I going and why am I in this hand-basket?

What did you love best about Inferno?

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.<br/>

What other book might you compare Inferno to and why?

Dante's Inferno, of course. This is a bizarre twist on that tale with a science fiction writer as the protagonist. <br/>

What about Tom Weiner’s performance did you like?

This was a pretty straight-forward reading. There really wasn't anything special about it.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No, because I was paying close attention to correct my 45-year-old memory of this book.

Any additional comments?

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.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Brian
  • Nebraska, United States
  • 08-14-12

Niven and Pournelle make a great combo

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

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.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

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.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Scott
  • Somerset, NJ, USA
  • 10-27-09

GREAT LISTEN!!

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.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating take on Dante

This is both sobering (thinking about life and after, morality and more) and invigorating as a fantasy narrative. Love the character references know and unknown.

I first read this in high school. I immediately read Dante's after. I could not resist revisiting this on Audible.

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  • Susan
  • 03-07-17

Thought provoking story

Read and enjoyed this in print many years ago. Audio version did not dissapoint. Funny and thought provoking.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Stephen
  • 08-21-11

Great book, poor rendition

I love this book & know it well having read it many times. Tom Weiner's rendition of it however comes nowhere near doing it justice. His reading voice has great tone and timbre and on that basis ought to be really good, however his phrasing, timing, and particularly inflection are poor and misplaced. Sometimes his phrasing is completely inappropriate to the situation, the words that preceded it and the words that follow. His long drawn out drawl at the end of some words also irritates me, though that's personal taste. If you've read the book I wouldn't recommend this version. If not, well you'll get more or less the sense of it.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Matteo
  • 07-10-14

Great Story, A Modern Divina Commedia

Would you listen to Inferno again? Why?

I would definitely listen to Inferno again, it isn't too long, well read and quite an involving story. Many references to modern historic characters.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Inferno?

The moment the protagonist and his guide go through the beaurocratic engine of the place they are in. Very amusing!

Which character – as performed by Tom Weiner – was your favourite?

The protagonist, but also his guide. Both characters are very well played and with an appropriate accent.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Hell, is not what you have been told it is...

Any additional comments?

Really enjoyed this audiobook, will listen to it again when I have caught up with the other books in my queue.