- Inferno (novel)
infobox Book |
name = Inferno
image_caption = Cover of Pocket Books paperback edition
Larry Niven& Jerry Pournelle
language = English
Science fiction novel
release_date = 1976
media_type = Print (
pages = 237 pp
isbn = ISBN 0-671-80490-1
"Inferno" is based upon the
helldescribed 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 fictionwriter 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 Hellwhen he calls upon God for mercy. Upon release he is met by Benito Mussolini, a Virgil-like figure whose full identity is not immediately apparent. Benito offers to take him out of Hellby 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 parksome thousand years in the future. It isn't until he sees a man recover from incinerationand his own leg heal from a compound fracturethat 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 officesto 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 paradisevia purgatory, allowing Benito to move on towards purgatory himself.
Along the way Allen meets a number of his
Californianacquaintances 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", is set for a
February 3, 2009release.
* [http://www.larryniven.org/ Known Space: The Future Worlds of Larry Niven]
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