Inferno by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
Review by Jacqui Slaney
This is a book that I found years ago in a second hand book shop, you know the type of shop, narrow passages that seem to go on for ever and high shelves rammed full of books. It was not a thick book but looked interesting and was so cheap how could I resist.
Science fiction writer Allen Carpentier finds adventure beyond his wildest fantasies when his soul is transported to Hell.
I started glancing through the pages and then ended up reading this book really quickly as it’s one of those story’s that once you start, you seriously cannot put down, and ever since then I have read it fairly regularly over the years as I do not get tired of it.
The idea behind the book is obviously Dante’s Inferno, which is part of the Divine comedy. Instead of Virgil though being the guide through the circles of hell; here you have a fat man called Benito or Benny, as he wants to be called, guiding a science fiction writer down to the centre of Hell where he says the exit is.
The writer Allen Carpentier at first does not accept he is in Hell, how could such a thing be possible after all? Therefore, he make believes that he is in some kind of theme park, an Inferno Land that is just based on Dante’s book. However, as Allen and Benito (now who do you think that could be?) make their way down through the various circles, he slowly comes to accept the truth of what he sees.
There are some vivid descriptions of the various punishments meted out to the sinners; wading through boiling blood, being mowed down by cars with a mind of their own and frozen in ice are just a few. Being a civil servant myself, I liked the idea of the admin offices! You also come across familiar names as well on the journey, Billy the Kid and Jesse James are just a couple.
The book can be read and enjoyed on different levels; it is a fast-paced adventure story with a fair amount of humours which considering the topic will surprise you. It also raises questions about religion and what Hell may be being used for. You can also end up questioning actually how many of these circles could a normal person end up in.
However you read this book, it is great science fiction, though not an easy book to find these days I am afraid. For those who are lucky enough to find a copy, definitely buy it as it is definitely worth a read and you will not be disappointed.
10 out of 10