Jimmy Corvan's Reviews > Inferno

Inferno by Larry Niven
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's review
Feb 04, 2010

really liked it
Read in February, 2010

As a big fan of Dante's original Inferno, I went into this book thinking that it could not possibly be as wonderful as the poem. Good, bad or indifferent, I was right. The entire feeling of the original work has been stripped from this version. Niven and Pournelle take some very gracious liberties with this decent through hell, the most annoying of which, is the creation of a ridiculously bureaucratic Hell (almost to the point of hilarity). The addition of filling out necessary forms and paperwork in order to decent between different rings of hell was very unwelcomed and did a wonderful job of fully removing me from the feeling that I was descending the rings of hell through John Carpenter's eyes.

All of that being said, this book was a really good read. While the authors certainly took their liberties with Dante's work, they did keep plenty of important details the same. On the whole, the world of Hell functions in the same manner, as the sins of Dante's writing still elicit very similar punishments.

This was a very interesting take on Dante's work as it does not, in any regard, attempt to tell the story. Sure the paths taken are similar, however, the intention and thus the actions taken with the characters of the world are vastly different. I was a little disappointed that Niven's novel lacked the beautiful scenery descriptions that was rife in Dante's, however, Niven earned some points back by more elaborately explaining the pains of each punishment.

While a very small point, I was PLEASANTLY surprised to see bits of influence from Trumbo's "Johnny's Got His Gun." At times the descriptions of Carpentier's thoughts are more interesting than the action. The beginning of this novel, before Carpentier is found to be in Hell, is almost a direct homage to JGHG...and a very good one at that.

On the whole, this book certainly does Dante's original piece justice and is certainly worth the read. If asked, I would offer that this version is a little more accessible to most readers than Dante's but I would very rarely encourage someone read this over the original.
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message 1: by John (new)

John Thanks for the review. I was thinking about picking this book up. But after having read your review I don't think that it was quite what I was looking for. Thank you for saving me loads of time.

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