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Inferno by Larry Niven
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Inferno (1976)

by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Inferno [L Niven] (Book 1)

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Really an awesome book. I got interested in this book after taking a class that had me reading the original Inferno (yet again!). I like this version so much better than Dante's version. ( )
  knfmn | Dec 22, 2016 |
Inferno is based upon the hell described in Dante's Inferno. However, it adds a modern twist to the story. The story is told in the first person by Allen Carpentier (né Carpenter), an agnostic science fiction writer who died in a failed attempt to entertain his fans at a party. He is released from a bottle in the Vestibule on the outer edge to Hell when he calls upon God for mercy. Upon release he is met by Benito, a Virgil-like figure whose full identity is not immediately apparent. Benito offers to take him out of Hell by bringing him to the center.

At first, as Allen and Benito travel through Hell, Allen tries to scientifically rationalize everything he sees, renaming his surroundings as 'Infernoland', a high-tech amusement park some thousand years in the future. It isn't until he sees a man recover from incineration and his own leg heal from a compound fracture that he starts to actually believe that he is in Hell. From this point on, as Allen travels through the inner circles of Hell, he sees how he is guilty of each of the sins in some fashion, commenting to himself that he is in no danger from ditch 3 of circle 8 (simony) only because he has never had any holy offices to sell. At first Allen views the punishments for these sins as far surpassing the crime, repeatedly thinking, "We're in the hands of infinite power and infinite sadism", although he comes to more and more to accept the justice of the situation as he realises that it is their continuing denial of their sins that keeps many of the condemned in hell. Eventually Allen takes over Benito's role in helping reformed souls proceed onto paradise via purgatory, allowing Benito to move on towards purgatory himself.It is revealed that Benito is actually Benito Mussolini, dictator of Italy during World War II.

Along the way Allen meets a number of his Californian acquaintances and notable people from history (e.g. Billy the Kid, Jesse James, Bob Ford, Henry VIII of England, Vlad Tepes, Aimee Semple McPherson, William M. Tweed) and from classical mythology (e.g. Hector, Aeneas, Charon, Minos, Phlegyas).

The theology of Inferno is that of universalism: salvation can be achieved by all. However, most of Hell's denizens met by Carpentier either deny their sins or feel they deserve their station.

The sequel to Inferno, Escape from Hell, was released in February 2009.

  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
I returned to this (having read it serialized in Galaxy magazine when it first came out back in the 70's) after reading Dante. It was fun, as I remembered, and a little corny/dated, and surprising Universalist! I'll be reading the sequel coming up (Escape from Hell) in February 2009. ( )
  bibleblaster | Jan 23, 2016 |
Just a quick re-read before I start on the belated sequel. Still as fun as ever. ( )
  Superenigmatix | Jan 16, 2016 |
I loved this in 1987 when I read it in my Dante elective with Tom Hungerford. It didn't really hold up when I read it later but really I don't care. I just have the memory of my teenage delight. ( )
  anderlawlor | Apr 9, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Niven, Larryprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pournelle, Jerrymain authorall editionsconfirmed
Bennett,HarryCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jones, PeterCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Martiniere, StephanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0765316765, Paperback)

After being thrown out 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 Layers 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.  

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:01 -0400)

After falling from the eighth story of a hotel during a science fiction convention, writter Allen Carpentier wakes to find himself at the Vestibule of Hell. His journey thorugh Hell reveals new, puzzling, and outlandish methods of sin recast for the twentieth century.… (more)

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