by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle

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A science fiction writer is thrown from his window and awakens in hell, led through its multiple chambers by Benito Mussolini.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780765316769
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 09/02/2008
Series: Inferno Series , #1
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 755,442
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.55(d)

About the Author

LARRY NIVEN is the New York Times bestselling author of the Ringworld series, along with many other science fiction masterpieces, and fantasy including the Magic Goes Away series. He has received the Nebula Award, five Hugos, four Locus Awards, two Ditmars, the Prometheus, and the Robert A. Heinlein Award, among other honors.

JERRY POURNELLE (1933-2017) was an essayist, journalist, and science fiction author. He had advanced degrees in psychology, statistics, engineering, and political science. As a science fiction author, he is best known for his many collaborations with Larry Niven, including Inferno, Beowulf's Children and The Mote in God's Eye.

Pournelle was the first ever winner of the John W. Campbell Award for Best new Writer in 1973.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

I thought about being dead.

I could remember every silly detail of that silly last performance. I was dead at the end of it. But how could I think about being dead if I had died?

I thought about that, too, after I stopped having hysterics. There was plenty of time to think.

Call me Allen Carpentier. It's the name I wrote under, and someone will remember it. I was one of the best- known science- fiction writers in the world, and I had a lot of fans. My stories weren't the kind that win awards, but they entertained and I had written a lot of them. The fans all knew me. Someone ought to remember me.

It was the fans who killed me. At least, they let me do it. It's an old game. At science- fiction conventions the fans try to get their favorite author washed- out stinking drunk. Then they can go home and tell stories about how Allen Carpentier really tied one on and they were right there to see it. They add to the stories until legends are built around what writers do at conventions. It's all in fun. They really like me, and I like them.

I think I do. But the fans vote the Hugo Awards, and you have to be popular to win. I'd been nominated five times for awards and never won one, and I was out to make friends that year. Instead of hiding in a back booth with other writers I was at a fan party, drinking with a roomful of short ugly kids with pimples, tall serious Harvard types, girls with long stringy hair, half- pretty girls half- dressed to show it, and damn few people with good manners.

Remember the drinking party in War and Peace? Where one of the characters bets he can sit on a window ledge and drink a whole bottle of rum without touching the sides? I made the same bet.

The convention hotel was a big one, and the room was eight stories up. I climbed out and sat with my feet dangling against the smooth stone building. The smog had blown away, and Los Angeles was beautiful. Even with the energy shortage there were lights everywhere, moving rivers of lights on the freeways, blue glows from swimming pools near the hotel, a grid of light stretching out as far as I could see. Somewhere out there fireworks arched up and drifted down, but I don't know what they were celebrating.

They handed me the rum. "You're a real sport, Allen," said a middle- aged adolescent. He had acne and halitosis, but he published one of the biggest science- fiction newsletters around. He wouldn't have known a literary reference if it bit him on the nose. "Hey, that's a long way down.

" "Right. Beautiful night, isn't it? Arcturus up there, see it? Star with the largest proper motion. Moved a couple of degrees in the last three thousand years. Almost races along."

Carpentier's trivial last words: a meaningless lecture to people who not only knew it already, but had read it in my own work. I took the rum and tilted my head back to drink. It was like drinking flaming battery acid. There was no plea - sure in it. I'd regret this tomorrow. But the fans began to shout behind me, and that made me feel good until I saw why. Asimov had come in. Asimov wrote science articles and histories and straight novels and commentaries on the Bible and Byron and Shakespeare, and he turned out more material in a year than anyone else writes in a lifetime. I used to steal data and ideas from his columns. The fans were shouting for him, while I risked my neck to give them the biggest performance of all the drunken conventions of Allen Carpentier.

With nobody watching.

The bottle was half empty when my gag reflex cut in and spilled used rum into my nose and sinuses. I jackknifed forward to cough it out of my lungs and pitched right over. I don't think anyone saw me fall. It was an accident, a stupid accident caused by stupid drunkenness, and it was all the fans' fault anyway. They had no business letting me do it! And it was an accident, I know it was. I wasn't feeling that sorry for myself.

The city was still alive with lights. A big Roman candle burst with brilliant pinpoints of yellows and greens against the starry skies. The view was pleasant as I floated down the side of the hotel.

It seemed to take a long time to get to the bottom.

Excerpted from Inferno by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.

Copyright © 1976 by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.

Published in September 2008 by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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Inferno 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 41 reviews.
JawstheCabbie More than 1 year ago
How come Hollywood hasn't discovered this book yet, especially after 30 plus years? Seems to me that if the project were turned over to a top notch filmaker (George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard come to mind) and if the filmaker were to put as much love and craftsmanship into the film as Niven and Pournell did when re-writing Dante's Inferno, and if they were as faithfull to the story line as Niven and Pournell were to the original by Dante Alighieri, they'd have a summer blockbuster on their hands that people would be talking about for decades! I keep envisioning Harrison Ford as Allen Carpentier, and the late Allen King would have been perfect as Benito Mussolini if only the film had been made while he was still alive and working. I just found out through this website about the sequel to "inferno", and I can't wait to read it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Renowned popular science-fiction writer Allen Carpentier makes a bet with his fans at a Los Angeles convention. Right out of War and Peace, he sits on the windowsill of a room on the hotel¿s eighth floor drinking a bottle of rum. About half way through he gags and falls out the window to his death.-------------- When Allen lands after what seems like eternity to him, he is shocked that he can think though somehow he finds himself in some sort of brass bottle that he wonders if it is his coffin. Some big Italian who says to call him Benito frees him from his bottle prison and agrees to be his guide as Allen treks through the concentric circles of Hell.----------- This is more than a reprint of the 1976 homage to Dante as Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle apparently revised some of the journey to ¿set the stage¿ for a sequel next year. Accompanying Allen and Benito on the trek is fun as they meet an assortment of sinners through the circles. Obviously still filled with adulation of Dante, INFERNO is a modern day faster and hipper version.------------- Harriet Klausner
Guest More than 1 year ago
I first read this book thirty years ago. I was fourteen years old at the time, and once I finished reading it I rushed to my school library to read the three books of Dante's 'Divine Comedy'. 'Inferno' did not seem to catch on like many other Niven/Pournelle novels, but it made a lasting impression on me and I think this book is probably in a 'cult' status with other readers. After re-reading it again recently, even though it has some flaws that I did not notice thirty years ago (such as being based on a work of literature that views Hell from a strictly Catholic point of view--what other religion considers 'simony' to be an official sin? And in a Hell that probably houses billions of souls, how does one individual run across so many people he knew in life?), it is still a good read, and I found some of the 'updated' punishments, such as the ones reserved for those who destroy the environment, even more relevant today. I am looking forward to the coming sequel. My only hope is that the authors make this Hell a little more ecumenical.
VVilliam on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fun romp through hell that carries a surprisingly worthwhile interpretation of modern hell. Having read Dante's Inferno helps. The narrator is excellent as well and I think listening to the book was much better than reading it would have been.
librisissimo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Substance: An update of Dante, with an sf writer protagonist. Per the authors's afterword, a deliberate attempt to meld Dante's vision with the theological insights of C. S. Lewis. Works for me. Since the book was written in 1976, one can only guess at the meaning of some of the "assignments" in hell, but the classic American Worldview of the writers's of that era is noticeable in respect to the current chasm between Left and Right in the genre.Style: Fast-paced action with the minimum necessary introspection required for the purpose. Some infrequent language, but generally lacking any R-rated material despite the Milieu).
Kellswitch on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A very interesting and mostly enjoyable book, it seemed to drag in the last two chapters, and while the ending wasn't a surprise, I liked how it was handled.The story really flowed and made me think, and even if I didn't like the main character, I did empathize with him and felt vested in his journey.
revslick on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Science Fiction writer John Carpentier wakes to find himself in hell (or at least Dante's vision of hell). Upon his waking he sets out on a journey to get out, which is really a ruse. His real quest is why hell? What does it mean? Who would do such a thing? This is the hero's quest...His journey allows him to meet several famous characters and some interesting musings. my favorite are as follows:'we are in the hands of infinite power and infinite sadism'the Republican and Democrat bickering over who is really right.'it is tough getting these animals to work together.''at this... I worked to remove the mote from my own eye.'great ending with constant movement..
GlennBell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Pretty much total garbage. The concept is that the author has copied Dante's Inferno into a modern day situation. A science fiction author falls off a eight-story building in drunkeness, dies, and goes to hell. He meet Benito Musselini and others on a trip through the levels of hell and gets out through the frozen area on the seventh level of hell. The only worthwhile concept is that the purpose of hell is for people to learn and get out after learning. I did not like the Divine Comedy and this is worse. Don't waste your time. It is a shame that such talented authors could generate such dribble.
traci on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wow! I really enjoyed this. It's vividly descriptive of the sinners and their punishments; takes the reader on a wild ride; and brings the characters to life (no pun intended). It was a really fun read, despite the subject matter, and also made me pause to think about my own 'sins'. There's a nice revelation at the end that you get an inkling of; the authors do a great job of leading up to it. Overall, pretty satisfying to me.
Dhympna on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found this book in a local Indie store and I will freely admit that the cover (facing out) was what caught my attention first. I have long been a Niven fan, but also being a medievalist--I could not resist the lure and promise this trade paper tome held.I took my new prize home and flipped open the publishing information and quickly realized how long ago this work had been in print. From the historical point of view--in terms of when this was written and being a historian who specializes in the era in which Dante was active--Niven and Pournelle did an excellent job.There are certain points--such as homosexuals being labeled as serious sinners--that might turn off some readers. This novel should come with a caveat concerning what it is based on and when it was written. I was unsure whether I would like, or buy, Benito Mussolini as Vergil's replacement...but towards the end I found his role as a guide oddly fitting.I found it to be a light and engaging read that I, at times, attempted to over analyze. One comes away with the sense that the concept of Sin is in the eye of the beholder. What gluttony encompasses, for example, is redefined. Gluttons are not just those who are morbidly obese or those who eat and drink too much. Gluttony is any obsession over food and drink thus the overly health conscious might also find themselves sentenced to the third circle.At the heart of the work, Niven and Pournelle answer the question of what would hell look like in 1976 and what were the possible repercussions of Dante's and Virgil's journey--what has changed?
knitwick on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A thinly veiled retelling of Dante's Inferno with some modernized punishments and a dose of humor. Overall, an enjoyable morality story that is easier and shorter to read than the original; however, each reference to Dane's telling left me wanting to read Dante's version more...
Archren on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
¿Inferno¿ is one quirky novel. It is the second book written by the powerhouse writing duo of Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, coming two years after ¿The Mote in God¿s Eye.¿ Let¿s stop for a minute and marvel in the accomplishment implied by the fact that the all-time classic ¿The Mote in God¿s Eye¿ was the first book out of the gate for this pair.That said, ¿Inferno¿ doesn¿t quite live up to its predecessor. It is a straight-up retelling of Dante¿s Inferno, with a dead science fiction writer, Allen Carpentier (don¿t look too closely at the implications of the name), as the hero instead of a dreaming poet. His guide is a remarkably strong Italian gentleman named Benito. There are many in-jokes here, especially regarding the science fiction community. The people one meets in Hell are now heavily weighted towards Americans as opposed to Italians, a fact that even the characters remark on. Mostly the tour hits all the same high points as Dante¿s, but it does turn out that there are some corners that Dante missed, lending new originality to the tale.The pacing is not equal to the best work from these writers, and the politics can get heavy-handed and struck me as a bit naïve. However, it is not wall-to-wall political satire. There is a real ambiguity here between what Carpentier expects this to be (some sort of alien future consruct), and what it appears to be (a real, honest-to-God afterlife). Carpentier has to go through some real soul-searching as to what his purpose in this new life might be. There are some scenes in here that move away from the almost mad-cap adventure story to be genuinely moving. On the whole it is uneven, but short and certainly interesting. I would recommend it as a light read, and definitely if you¿re interested in seeing another facet of the Niven/Pournelle oeuvre.
rodrichards on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I returned to this (having read it serialized in Galaxy magazine when it first came out back in the 70's) after reading Dante. It was fun, as I remembered, and a little corny/dated, and surprising Universalist! I'll be reading the sequel coming up (Escape from Hell) in February 2009.
Karlstar on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I know others are not as big a fan of this book as I am, but this is an excellent reworking of Dante's Inferno. Updated for modern times, and without Dante's torturous monologues, its a fascinating revision. Read this after you read the Inferno sometime.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good story but it hasn't been made into a good movie yet. You need to study this one a bit longer.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My senior thesis was Dante's Inferno as compared to T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland. (put Floyd's The Wall on headphones and dive into those cheerful little masterpieces some time) I ended that paper with the feeling that I was missing something important regarding the Inferno. I was. Reading this book put it in a more modern context and made it far more understandable. Follow it up with Escape from Hell for the full effect. I highly recommend these books.
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