Oct 2, 2010

Dante's Inferno Meets Lewis's Great Divorce

Just finished a very intriguing sci-fi novel: Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, Inferno. These are my favorite sci-fi writers. They still claim the fame of the best sci-fi novel of all time, The Mote in God's Eye. In this one, they tell the story of a man, John Carpenter, who dies and wakes up in hell.--and hell is precisely as described in Dante's famous "Inferno." At first, Carpenter thinks he's been kidnapped by aliens who are playing a very cruel joke on him. It only slowly dawns on him where he really is. Guided by, of all people, Benito Mussilini, Carpenter tries to make his escape from hell--down the same route taken centuries before by Dante himself (Yes, Dante's Divine Comedy is a true story!!!--in the novel, that is).

I won't give away the rest of the story, but it was a fun read (though sometimes very dark). In an editorial by the authors at the end of the book, they specifically state that they are trying to tell a story that combines Dante's geography of hell with C.S. Lewis's theology (as described in his The Great Divorce). This made the book all that more intriguing to me, given that Niven and Pournelle are well-known mainstream sci-fi authors. Though both Dante's and Lewis's theology are a bit skewed biblically, I think they (esp. Lewis) have some valuable things to teach us. And I was delighted to see that Niven and Pournelle had learned some of the lessons, and are teaching them to others through this very good novel. Read it!!


Alex said...

Hi, thanks for your post. I read the book and liked it. It seems to treat the Inferno as a kind of Purgatory.

The authors have recently written a sequel to this book. Have you read it, and what are your thoughts?

Alex said...

Hi, read the book and liked it. The authors have recently writen a sequel. Have you read it, and what are your thoughts?

Steve Cowan said...

Alex, you're welcome. I'm glad you liked the book, too. Yes, I'm aware of the sequel and jsut started reading it recently. I had to lay it aside for school work, but hope to get back to it over Spring break. I'll let you know what I think when I finish it.

Daniel Davis said...

Huh. Sounds interesting. Maybe I'll pick it up.