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Inferno Paperback – September 2, 2008

4.5 out of 5 stars 149 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the Inferno Series

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Editorial Reviews


Inferno is quite literally a cake walk through hell, with a science fiction writer as Dante and Benito Mussolini as Virgil. I kid you not, Pournelle and Niven have had the chutzpah to re-write Dante's Inferno as if they were some unholy hybrid of Roger Zelazny, Robert Heinlein, and Phil Jose Farmer. You are right there in the nether-reaches of the ultimate Sam Peckinpah movie with all the matter-of-fact solidity of a Hal Clement novel. It gets to you, it really does. This being lunacy of a transcendent order.” ―Norman Spinrad

“A dazzling tour de force.” ―Poul Anderson on Inferno

“A fast, amusing and vivid book, by a writing team noted for intelligence and imagination.” ―Roger Zelazny on Inferno

About the Author

Larry Niven is the award-winning author of the Ringworld series, along with many other science fiction masterpieces, and fantasy novels including the Magic Goes Away series. He has received the Nebula Award, five Hugos, four Locus Awards, two Ditmars, the Prometheus, and the Robert A. Heinlein Award, among other honors. He lives in Chatsworth, California.

Jerry Pournelle is an essayist, journalist, and science fiction author. He has advanced degrees in psychology, statistics, engineering, and political science. He lives in Studio City, California.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Orb Books; First Edition of Reissued Work edition (September 2, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765316765
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765316769
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (149 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #342,374 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The publisher's review, listed above as the product description, isn't accurate. Carpentier wasn't pushed from his luxury apartment; he fell in a freak, drunken accident from a hotel window during a science fiction convention. He doesn't feel like he's landed a great opportunity for a book; he feels disgusted and dismayed at the human suffering around him. He isn't determined to meet Satan; he's determined to get out of there.

So, for a correct description, after his sudden death, science fiction writer Allen Carpentier finds himself along the shores of Hell, with a strange guide who wishes only to be known as Benito, a Hell visited once before by Dante Alighieri. This Hell has changed some, and Carpentier visits some places Dante missed, but where Dante mocked the denizens of Hell, and meekly followed as he was led, Carpentier shows pity and mercy to those he meets, and he's determined to take control of the situation he finds himself in. We're treated to a delightful cast of characters, some from history and others from an imagined future world. This is a masterwork from the pen of two great authors, and it is not to be missed.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
For some reason this seems to be the only Niven/Pournelle collaboration not in widespread print. Indeed that's sad because this is probably one of the more distinctive of their collective musings, if still definitely having their mark on it. The title was no doubt easy to pick, in case you're wondering if the book has anything to do with that wacky long work of poetry by a certain Italian poet, you're absolutely right. A science fiction writer dies and for some strange reason gets sent to hell, which of course he then proceeds to break down into science fiction terms (figuring he must have gotten sent into the future . . . "Infernoland" I love it!) while events and settings around him defy all sense of logic and physics. It's a rollicking ride through the netheregions, the boys barely give you time to catch your breath as Carpentier attempts to replicate Dante's journey through the place to get the heck out of there. Along the way he runs into the twentieth century versions of sins, some of which you might disagree with, since a bunch are political in nature but I found most of them fairly funny and the authors don't hit you over the head with their social commentary. He also runs into some notorious historical figures and the identity of his guide is at first so seemingly obvious that you can't believe that they had the gall to actually include him in the book and then you wonder how come Carpenter doesn't realize until long after you do. A great companion to Dante's poem, it raises a few religious questions just to give you something to think about but overall it's a fun read.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Science fiction tends to treat religion as a dangerous bully pulpit, a regrettable necessity, or background color, if at all.Some authors, such as Harlan Ellison in his excellent "Deathbird Stories",present a wry, circumspect view of humanity as actually having many 'gods'(e.g. Greed), every one of which dies as soon as belief in them dies.
But Niven and Pournelle have tried here to put a technically savvy protagonist into the thick of it, who tries to make sense of the parameters that seem to govern entrance into, and existence within Hell. Carpentier postulates a being named Big Juju (he resists the name "God" or "Satan") who has mastered physical law on a scale so massive that it seems to be Biblical, but only 'seems' to. But he ultimately relents, and discovers that it is all about getting people's attention.
As one other reviewer pointed out, this novel doesn't just "explore the concept" - it offers a possible explanation of why humans would be damned to infinite punishment for doing things that are tiny in comparison.
A techie gets an abject lesson in spirituality, and the premise of the book is summed up beautifully by Carpentier in a single succinct statement, near the end of the story: "Hell is the violent ward in a hospital for the theologically insane."
Does our protagonist become religious? By the end of this book, he certainly becomes stronger and more selfless. Can't wait for the sequel!
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Format: Paperback
Dante's Inferno had sinners chased through forests by evil hounds, and all the punitive mechinations available to the medieval mind hard at work. Niven and Pournelle added all the cruelties that humanity has created for itself since then. As a vain and self-centered science fiction author transits Hell in the company of a repentant Mussolini, the 'new cruelty' is hard at work.

Some sins are revisited, as a fashion model is punished for her obsession with her diet along with classic gluttons also being punished for their obsession with their diets, and a teacher who falsey diagnosed learning disabilities rather than work with slower students suffers in the ring reserved for practicioners of evil magic. Other punishments are revised, as Corvettes (the cars, not the ships) replace hell hounds, and bureaucratic, administrative perfection is required of the residents and enforced by demons. Truly a disturbing vision of eternal punishment.

Through all this, the underlying message is hope and the possibility of redemption, even for the worst offenders.

A brilliant XXth century interpretation of Dante, and well worth reading. Powerful prose and vivid imagery brings this one to life.

E.M. Van Court
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