Escape from Hell by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle is the long awaited sequel to their classic adaptation and updating of Dante’s Inferno, titled appropriately enough, Inferno. Unlike Dante, Niven and Pournelle have decided not to take their protagonist, Allen Carpenter, to Purgatory. Instead, Escape to Hell is the story of Carpenter’s work to continue the efforts of his guide from Inferno, Benito Mussolini, to help those who deserve to escape Hell. Along the way, he collects an assortment of companions, including Sylvia Plath, Aimee Semple McPherson, and a thinly disguised Carl Sagan, while revisiting the people and places in Hell he had passed through with Benito. Carpenter discovers that his work is more difficult than he expected. Hell is changing, according to the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and there are temptations even for the good intentioned. As before, the writers indulge themselves by including their personal causes and damning their enemies to Hell, but then so did Dante.
Escape from Hell is a worthy sequel to Inferno, yet I cannot help but feel it is something of a disappointment. With Inferno, we were introduced to a new infernal world to explore. With the sequel, we are going back over old ground, updated to apply the changes of Vatican II. Allen Carpenter travels through the same regions of Hell he went to before. The only difference is that his mission has changed from trying to escape Hell to rescuing others. It might have been nice for the authors to follow Dante’s outline and have Carpenter travel through Purgatory. Perhaps there will be another book in the series.
Despite some reservations, Escape from Hell is a worthy sequel to Inferno, both as a fantasy, adventure and as a thought-provoking exploration of the nature of Hell and evil.
A new Dan Brown novel is coming in May, and the subject is Dante.
Doubleday announced Tuesday that Brown’s book is called Inferno, named for Dante’s epic journey in verse. Brown again will feature Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, the protagonist for his blockbuster The Da Vinci Code and for the million-selling follow-up The Lost Symbol. The book might seem familiar in other ways, as Brown again takes on a masterpiece of Western civilization: The Da Vinci Code centred on an iconic painting, the Mona Lisa.
“Although I studied Dante’s Inferno as a student, it wasn’t until recently,while researching in Florence, that I came to appreciate the enduring influence of Dante’s work on the modern world,” Brown said in a statement. “With this new novel, I am excited to take readers on a journey deep into this mysterious realm, a landscape of codes, symbols, and more than a few secret passageways.”
Brown may also be returning to the religious controversies of The Da Vinci Code, when he infuriated some Catholics by suggesting that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had children. Dante himself was a Catholic who was critical of church leaders.
Wonderful. I can’t wait for Brown to distort the history of Dante as he has Leonardo Da Vinci and early Christianity. I suppose it goes without saying that very little of this upcoming novel will be based on any facts about Dante’s life, though I am sure Dante will uncover the great conspiracy that the Catholic Church has been hiding for centuries. Its too bad really. Dante lived an interesting life and I wish that someone other than Dan Brown would write a book about him.
I was first exposed to this work when I read the novel “inferno” by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. In this book, science fiction writer Allen Carpenter dies and finds himself in Dante’s Hell. Led by Benito Mussolini, he travels all the way to the bottom of Hell, trying to figure out what the purpose of Hell is. I liked the book so much that I decided to check out the original, which turned out to be interesting and even fun.
Most people seem to prefer the Inferno. The Purgatio and Paradiso are considered less interesting than the torments of the damned. I don’t agree. Each section has its points of interest. The Purgatio offers hope and relief after the dismal landscapes of the Inferno. My favorite part of the Divine Comedy is towards the end of the Paradiso when Dante finally see God in all His Glory.