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Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
Narrated by Tom Weiner, unabridged
Blackstone Audio, 5 Hours, 42 Minutes

Larry Niven
Larry Niven has authored or co-authored more than 40 novels and short story collections. His 1970 novel, Ringworld, won both the Hugo and Nebula awards, while his short stories have earned him four more Hugos. His collaborations with Jerry Pournelle include The Mote in God's Eye, an intense first-contact yarn, Oath of Fealty, a blistering tirade against liberal values, and the #1 bestseller, Footfall. He resides in Tarzana, California.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Ringworld
SF Site Review: Rainbow Mars
SF Site Review: Best of all Possible Wars
SF Site Review: Destiny's Road

Jerry Pournelle
Jerry E. Pournelle, Ph.D., earned his Bachelors in Psychology and Mathematics, his Masters in Experimental Statistics and Systems Engineering, and his Doctorates in Psychology and Political Science all from the University of Washington. His public service includes chairing the Citizen's Advisory Council on National Space Policy and The Lunar Society, Inc. He has served as Advisor on Space Policy to the Republican Congressional Leadership and as a Board Member of the L-5 Society. Jerry Pournelle was born in Shreveport, Louisiana but now lives in Studio City, California. Married in 1959 to Roberta Jane (nee Isdell), he has four sons and one daughter.

Jerry Pournelle Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Starswarm

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Ivy Reisner

Inferno After his sudden death, science fiction writer Allen Carpentier finds himself along the shores of Hell with a strange guide who wishes only to be known as Benito. Not surprisingly, it is a Hell visited once before by Dante Alighieri.

This work takes some artistic license with Dante's original Inferno. For example, in Dante's original vision, hoarders and wasters passed boulders around. The hoarders had to push boulders to the middle of their fourth ring of Hell, and the wasters had to pull boulders back to their side of the ring. In both cases, each group acts out the opposite of their sins. In the original version, it was the wrathful who clashed against each other. However, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle conjoin these, but make no mention of the change. In other cases, they invent places Benito says Dante missed, or aspects Dante failed to mention.

This book has been called a reworking or reimagining of Dante's Inferno, but, were The Divine Comedy written today, it would not be published. The lawsuits would be staggering. At one point, Dante condemns the then Pope, Boniface, to Hell for Simony, the selling of Holy Orders. He inserts personal enemies, current political figures, even a few friends, to the various levels of Hell. Niven and Pournelle use some historic figures such as Jesse James and Vlad the Impaler, and they refer to L. Ron Hubbard, but not by name, but they shy away from Dante's viciousness. Most of the characters in their Inferno, are purely fictional.

What is most interesting is the difference in how the protagonists of both works react to what they see. Dante was assured in the rightness of what was happening. He mocked the condemned, and sometimes added to their torment. Carpentier pities the suffering souls, often trying to help alleviate their plight. Dante was curious, stopping at every turn to question the tortured souls, but never questioning the journey. Carpentier keeps a stronger focus on getting the hell out of Hell, and wondering who or what would cause such suffering. The line that keeps resounding in the novel is "We are in the hands of infinite power, and infinite sadism."

Readers familiar with Dante's Inferno will love the way Niven and Pournelle lead us to a situation, provide just enough information to orient us to what's coming next, and then present it to us. It's a guessing game throughout to figure which level of Hell we'll see next. Just to keep us off guard though, they throw a few extras into Hell. Dante never fully appreciated the value of bureaucrats in the torturing of lost souls.

We're treated to a delightful cast of characters, some from history and others from an imagined future world. Huge questions are raised about redemption, about justice, about the meaning of Hell itself. This is a masterwork from the pen of two great authors, and it is not to be missed.

Tom Weiner is an excellent narrator, who gives a unique voice to each of the characters. We can hear the drawl in the speech of Billy the Kid, or Benito's Italian accent. His women sound like women, and of the age he intends to portray. His performance enhances an already compelling work.

Copyright © 2009 Ivy Reisner

Ivy Reisner is a writer, an obsessive knitter, and a podcaster. Find her at

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