Top critical review
24 people found this helpful
A disapointing re-tread of old ground.
on 25 June 2009
I loved Inferno, a witty and humane re-working of part of Dante's Divine Comedy. Now I know Niven and Pournelle have a very poor track record with their sequels (Moat around Murchison's Eye for example) but I was rather hoping that with the quality of the original concept and the whole of history and hell to provide ideas that they could at least assemble a half decent story.
I was right, it is half decent, as per usual with Niven novels of late it's technically very accomplished. It's a great page turner with a nice clearly defined structure and a wonderful primary protagonist in Allen Carpenter. The historical supporting characters in the main chosen with care and attention and in particular the use of one well known female poet is inspired. But that's it.
I've started to wonder if Niven is having his novels ghost written or something because this feels like a collection of notes assembled into a novel by someone with serious technical writing skills but little or no imagination at all. Exploding souls? Impact of Vatican II leading to hell's bureaucracy being overtaken by American district attorneys from Louisiana? Hitler and Stalin wrestling after the ninth circle gets nuked? In particular the latter stages of the book make almost no sense at all, the narrative being bombarded with half formed ideas and vague 1960s so-cal concerns, "last-years zeitgeist" crooks and lazily chosen cameos of histories monsters, are Hitler and Stalin really the worst baddies in history? Are they really the best you could think of? Does Why does Ken Lay get a cameo, why Ken Lay even deserve a mention?
It's a damn shame, Inferno was a classic humanist tale of redemption and humanities place in the infinite. This is a well designed but ironically, ultimately soulless auctioneer.