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Escape from Hell

by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

A Tor Book published by Tom Doherty Assoc.

Print edition 2009

Reviewed by Jul Owings
Review posted 7/5/09

This sequel to Inferno is, if anything, an even more engaging and satisfying book than its prequel, which was well packed with adventure. It continues the tale of Allen Carpenter, a science fiction writer who landed in Hell by committing suicide after deciding that he was a failure as a writer. Where Inferno showed Mr. Carpenter as an engaging, ingenious and determined character, he clearly has matured in Escape from Hell, which adds compassion and good humor to his personality. The adventures he finds this time, in repeating his journey through 9 levels of Hell, and trying to encourage others to work their way out as he learned how to do in the earlier book, further test his determination and add interest to the plot by pairing him with a well-known female poet who has also committed suicide. As in Inferno, a significant number of famous people have walk on roles, and several characters he meets are also well developed in the story. The passage of time is credibly portrayed in this story.

Anyone who is not uneasy with a plot set in Christianity's model of eternal damnation will find here both pleasure and an educational but not pedantic examination of humankind's major moral issues. I highly recommend folks to read this book, especially since the plot of Inferno is elegantly reprised so one doesn't have to hunt up and reread that prequel published in 1976. In addition, each chapter is headed by a quote from the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow translation of Dante's Inferno from the original written in Italian. There's also a map of the levels of Hell and a Dramatis Personae to help the reader keep track of the multiple characters with significant roles in this (sometimes literally) hair raising adventure...

Niven and Pournelle have as usual done a good job of telling a fantastic story. The book is dedicated to C.S. “Jack” Lewis, who is mentioned by one of the characters, but is not in Hell. The art on the jacket is very well done by Stephan Martinier.

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