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Hell

3.37 of 5 stars 3.37  ·  rating details  ·  1,027 ratings  ·  203 reviews
The new novel from one of American literature's brightest stars, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, Robert Olen Butler's uproarious new novel is set in the underworld. Its main character, Hatcher McCord, is an evening news presenter who has found himself in Hell and is struggling to explain his bad fortune. He's not the only one to s ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published October 12th 2010 by Grove Press (first published 2009)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,892)
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Tim
Someone once said that the problem with sensational journalism is not that it is not journalism, but rather that it is not sensational. Reading through this book, I thought of a new way of phrasing the idea: the problem with experimental novelists is not that they are not novelists, but that they are not experimental.

This could have been a truly imaginative piece of work. When I picked it up, I was looking forward to all the grossness, horror, and enslavement of Dante's Inferno, but updated with
...more
Ryan Hibbett
I'm only giving it 2 stars for the idea and themes. Really, it deserves 1 for being written so poorly. This guy won a Pulitzer Prize? I'm surprised he has even made as a writer. Let me give you a tip, Mr. Butler: never write in the passive voice! "He is thinking" should never be written. Every other page had something written in the passive voice and it drove me nuts. It was hard to concentrate. I also get what he's trying to do with the thought process being run-on sentences, but when it goes o ...more
Elizabeth
Hell by Robert Olen Butler (pp. 232)

Hands down, one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. A surreal comedy set literally in Hell with deceased fictional journalist, Hatcher McCord as our tortured, philosophical tour guide who happens to be the current anchor for Evening Nightly News of Hell.

Based on Dante’s Inferno with pieces of Jean Paul Satre, Waiting for Godot, Picasso at Lapin Agile, Dennis Miller, CNN, Entertainment Weekly and your high school history books all beautifully merged in
...more
Amy Wilder
New Yorker capsule review got my attention. The premise alone is great - a newscaster in hell does a series of celebrity interviews - just one question: "Why Do You Think You're Here?"
Perversely profound, though we are lured into the novel at the prospect of being a voyeur of someone else's eternal damnation, Butler leads the reader quickly to contemplate the source of all suffering.

In the opening scene Hatcher McCord, the narrator and anchorman of the Evening News from Hell, describes a televis
...more
Jeremy Zerbe
Hatcher McCord was a world-famous broadcast journalist, known for his sharply discerning eye for the news and his interviews with the dirtiest dictators and celebrities alike, while dealing with asshole producers and a bevy of bitchy ex-wives. And then he died and went to Hell, where his eternal punishment turned out to be exactly the same as his life on earth, only with even worse traffic and bouts of acid rain. And his producer isn't just an asshole, he's Beelzebub. You see, Hatcher isn't just ...more
Geo
I'll summarize. This was an excellent book. The premise is awesome. I don't want to share too much to avoid spoilers.

The basic idea is that the main character is a journalist who has died and gone to hell, and is now a Evening News in Hell anchorman. Oh yeah, and he's co-habitating with Anne Boleyn. Right, the Henry the 8th Anne Boleyn. The author has cooked up some seriously demented "punishments" for the various denizens. You may consider this a modernized Dante's Inferno if you wish, but that
...more
David
If you look at most of what I enjoy reading, you’ll understand that every now and then I need a dose of comedy, and this ingenious satiric three ring circus fit the bill well. As with Dante’s Inferno, there’s precious little plot: this one’s mostly about the sightseeing, and much of the entertainment of this book actually stems from the seemingly endless variety and ingenuity of such special punishments, which make Dante look like an amateur. William Randolph Hearst blogs without recourse to the ...more
Travis Cherry
I wasn't quite sure what to make of this at first. From the jacket it appeared to be a comical romp through hell with all your favorite characters from history, and while the humor exists it is more subtle that the synopsis had me believing. It read more, to my thinking, as a commentary on the fallacy of religious idealism where even the most holy men on the planet live through hell. But happiness is in the struggle or so they say and perhaps that's the point. Worthwhile reading, but easy to set ...more
Audrey
I'm so happy to have discovered Robert Olen Butler. I'm not sure what made me pick up this book (the title? the cover illustration?). Butler takes readers on an enjoyable literary romp through Hell with his protagonist, a TV anchorman who has found himself in that place below and sets out to find out why he is there--along with all manner of other famous and not-so-famous people. But there's a deeper message about humanity that's both satisfying and poignant. I'll be picking up more of Butler's ...more
Mary Overton
Butler is funny as Hell while asking the Big Serious Questions. The more familiar you are with Dante, the better this novel. I knew right away, on page 2, I was going to like the book when one of the first denizens introduced was "George Clemens, inventor of the electric hand dryer for public restrooms."

Actually, everyone seems to be there, all the best people. The protagonist, Hatcher McCord, died a big-shot TV news anchor and now headlines "The Evening News from Hell." He lives with Anne Bole
...more
Lauren
Don't be turned off by the number of lower reviews of this book. Most people don't like it cause its "depressing." I have to say that most literature is depressing and if you don't want to read about reality stick to reading Romance novels are the stuff that scruffs by these days as "bestsellers." This novel is inventive and fascinating. A quick read and definitely one of the best books I've read in a long time. This is number 75 for the year so that should say something.
Aaron
Jul 12, 2013 Aaron rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: nobody
Not impressed. As a matter of fact, several times throughout the book, I was reminded of the title whenever I considered how many pages were left. I only stuck with it because Mr. Butler is a Pulitzer Prize winner (although, not by the standards of this book, in my opinion) and the premise is interesting, just not well done. Anyway, I can't recommend it at all as I barely finished it myself.
Deborah
I had some issues with this book at first, mainly because its themes were a bit heavy given the personal hell I was going through. But it picks up very well once it gets past the initial fascination with itself and the idea of all these famous people in hell. I loved the ending and found it unexpected and remarkably sweet.
Jordan
First off, thanks to the good people at ARCycling and to Mariela O. for getting me this book. Free books are always a cause for thanks, regardless of what I end up thinking of the book itself. In this case....well, my reaction was just incredibly ambivalent. Robert Olen Butler is apparently a Pulitzer-Prize winning author, but at least in this case I didn't see what all the fuss was about. There are a few laughs throughout this work of satire, but on the whole its cynical view of human nature ju ...more
Morgan
Lives up to the intriguing premise. I found the novel to be strangely satisfying despite the fact that all of the characters are languishing in Hell. Would make a nice companion read to Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman.
Trudi
Not what I was expecting AT ALL. It had its moments in the first 50 pages, then it just went downhill for me after that. I skimmed and jumped around and was never genuinely engaged. I guess I just missed the point.
Fred
Almost 5 stars. Great book, creatively set in a vivid underworld, with a great list of famous (infamous?) cameos. Read with a search engine nearby, looking up unfamiliar names is almost a must.
Wendy
think of an historical character...and they are in this novel, each stuck in a particular cycle of torment. Our hero has to choose between shooting Hitler or Stalin ( whom would you choose?). His girlfriend is Anne Boleyn who is pining for Henry VIII. Anne can give great head, with her actual head removed from her body! The limo driver is either Nixon or the handler of the mythical Pegasus. A bar scene includes Bogart,who implores a dame NOT to say that famous line, as he yearns for Bacall. Geor ...more
Deepa
**SPOILER ALERT***

I wasn't quite sure what to make of this book at first. But, it has taken me a week to gather my thoughts on it...so I guess it is thought provoking. I wouldn't exactly call it a comedy, the humor was more subtle than that. Never having read Dante's Inferno, I can't totally compare the two. The book did leave me a bit depressed...thinking that everyone, even good people are doomed to live out eternity in hell. Also, I'm not sure if the main character actually made it to Heaven,
...more
Therese
Reviewing on iPad = brief. Because: genuinely funny - never read anything like it - kept me turning the page - Hell is described.... I could feel the weight of the humid air in my lungs. Fascinated by how people continually, listlessly imitate life. How melting in the fairly regular acid rain or being consumed by a sex-demon was a mild inconvenience that Hells denizens just sighed and shuffled on from. How the sufferings of hell aren't horror movie eternal burning, but more like an eternity of b ...more
Jennie
I found this book to be intriguing, humorous and revealing of a metaphysical conception about the relationship between a sick state of mind and the perception of residing in hell. We traverse a fabric of thoughts, each thinker in hell contributing a thread showing how they continue, even when faced with absolute conviction of eternal damnation, cling to a rote sing song of excuses for the behavior that landed them there. Hatcher's final realization exposes the true nature of the workings of hell ...more
Kris
This book was its own Hell to read. I started this book a number of times and a part of me felt after I had read the same opening pages eight or nine times that perhaps the joke was on me and it was time to give up. However, I am a believer in finishing any book I start and giving it a fighting chance of making me a convert to its cause.

While this book has moments that were good, it never reached a level of being a book that brought me fully into its story. Although its peopled with characters f
...more
Coleen Muir
I'm only a little over halfway through this book, but reading it's a bit like taking medicine - horrible, chalky, giant tablets that stick in your throat and although you know you'll be better for swallowing them, they still cause a bit of a gag-reflex and a bitter lingering taste in your mouth.

Well, maybe this book is not exactly like that, but...

What I'm really trying to get at is my disappointment with Robert Olen Butler for this. Perhaps this is unfair, but I guess having read his brilliant
...more
Edward
Butler has written a grimly funny tour of hell, led by a tv anchorman (NEWS FROM HELL) whose favorite interview question is, "Why do you think you're here". The residents include famous people from the past, most of our recent presidents, present day celebrities of all stripes, and just ordinary people such as the couple who continue to bicker, as they did for 50 years on earth.
Satan's purpose is to keep everyone full of worry, regret, bafflement, pretty much what preoccupied their thoughts o
...more
Christina Rumbaugh
I'd say that I enjoyed about 7/8 of this book. It was an interesting premise, and the author delivered for most of the book, but I was less than enthused at the end. Maybe it was a little esoteric for me.

Anyway, the book follows famous news broadcaster Hatcher McCord. He was this in life, and in death. You see, Satan makes him the anchor for the Evening News in Hell. Here, he is doomed to read Bruce Almighty-esque teleprompters, no matter how hard he tries to avoid it, and is responsible for the
...more
Rachel Swords
Upon reading the back cover of the book, one would assume that this will be a rip-roaring romp of hilarity through Hell - a new Dante's "Inferno" for the 21st century, perhaps. Well, look elsewhere, fellow readers; sadly, this story is not it. At first, I enjoyed following the adventures of the protagonist, former Earthly (and now Hellish) news anchor Hatcher, but the problem is that he meanders everywhere and the plot suffers for it. Initially, I liked this, thinking, "okay, eventually he's gon ...more
Julie
The first half of this book was uproariously funny. Think modern day Dante’s Inferno (even Virgil and Beatrice make cameos) with the humor of Christopher Moore. No one is safe from Butler’s hell and satire: former popes, presidents, royalty, writers, even Mother Theresa. Disco is the ultimate form of torture and Hemingway’s personal punishment is that he can’t find a bar. The reader is given glimpses into the thoughts of the deceased (Anne Boleyn still pines after Henry VIII and Judas is still w ...more
Allan
A romp through hell, and everyone is invited! Hell (the novel) is great fun. I particularly loved seeing Mother Teresa and Christopher Hitchens both there, together, working their way through eternity. The Clintons were there (just about all the presidents reside downside I think). Dante, Shakespeare and even Robert Olen Butler. Anyone who was anyone (or no one) needs to work things out, and never get it right.[return][return]Butler has us follow news anchorman Hatcher McCord as he tries to work ...more
Sara
I took a longer time in reading this book because it stood up a level from the books that I usually read - intellectually speaking ;-)
Hatcher McCord, in his mortal life, was a famous TV anchorman. After his death, he goes to hell and is surprised to find a great many other famous people in hell as well. Some of these are names one would expect (Hitler and Stalin, for example), however some are strikingly bold residents of hell (Ghandi and Mother Teresa), and some are just plain amusing (George B
...more
Chris Mcmullen
This book was an incredible journey through the weird, the paranormal, and the psychological chaos that is embodied by our experiences of pain, suffering, and anxiety. While the characters in the book are all dead and are doomed to eternal damnation in Hell, the true source of the book's humor and brilliance is the metaphor that is found when looking at the "big picture" the book has to offer. It questions the very foundation of what makes us human and what makes us happy, but more importantly, ...more
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90820
“I’ll never stop believing it: Robert Olen Butler is the best living American writer, period.”
– Jeff Guinn, Fort Worth Star-Telegram


Robert Olen Butler has published eleven novels which includes The Alleys of Eden, Sun Dogs, Countrymen of Bones, On Distant Ground, Wabash, The Deuce, They Whisper, The Deep Green Sea, Mr. Spaceman, Fair Warning, and Hell, as well as five volumes of short fiction; Tab
...more
More about Robert Olen Butler...
A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain A Small Hotel From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction Severance: Stories Tabloid Dreams: Stories

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“And so, given the musical sensibilities Hatcher treasured in his earthly life, it is hard to exaggerate the severity of his torture at standing naked in his tiny kitchen in Hell as former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover sings a Bee Gees disco song backed by a full studio orchestra and Robin and Maurice.” 3 likes
“The monitor presently shows the Windows Blue Screen of Death, though this does not alarm him, as the BSoD is the universal screen saver in Hell.” 3 likes
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