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Nothing says "I Love You, Dear" like screaming lower back pain!

Sometimes Wrong but rarely in doubt!

18 February 2009

Escape From Hell

Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle
ISBN 978-0765316325
Rating: Buy, Hardcover, New

I hope everyone takes an opportunity to look at the picture of the millwork I posted yesterday. You'll note that Mrs. Bugbear relented and allowed me to solidly stock the shelves with books. Her only condition was that books be neatly stacked at all times. I guess the mass of books on the bedroom shelves are getting to her. The powder room book shelf is my homage to Jerry Pournelle's library which has built in bookshelves covering the walls and books covering every horizontal surface...sigh. I'm still jealous but I aspire to someday have a library of my own.

All hope abandon ye who enter here, there may be spoilers below.

If you haven't read Inferno the prequel to Escape From Hell, I recommend it. Inferno casts a sci-fi writer Allen Carpentier as Dante and Benito Mussolini as Virgil in the first part of Dante's Divine Comedy, Inferno. Escape From Hell picks up the tale as Carpentier attempts to take over the role of guide from Mussolini. Along the way Carpentier tries to convince himself that every soul trapped in hell has a means of escape. How does a tree in the forest of suicides perambulate through hell or the traitors frozen in the lake of ice of the ninth circle of hell?

The fictional Carpentier meets many historical figures as well as famous recently departed souls of the modern age. I especially loved the modern residents of Bolgia eight of the eighth circle, my good friend over at Ante Aurorum Tenebrae would get a chuckle out of it after he finished frothing at the mouth.

There's not much to detract from the novel, the obligatory what has gone before is broken up although a bit lengthy. Like the first novel it's written in the first person. First person narration is not my favorite style but for one man's journey through hell it is appropriate. The narrative style doesn't negatively impinge on the book, much. Although I complain about first person narration, frequently, I've enjoyed quite a few books that employ the device including Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress which uses first person narration, in dialect, irritating dialect. The only real weakness of the book is that Carpentier is less introverted in the second book. Throughout the first book, Inferno, Carpentier struggles to reject hell as real concocting theories to explain away the reality of hell. Eventually Carpentier fails in his rejection and accepts the objective reality of hell In the second book the struggle is less internal and consequently the first person narrative is no longer necessary except to maintain continuity with the first book. Since Carpentier is less introverted there tend to be scenes where he is almost seems absent and the narrative almost seems to be in the third person. It's a small flaw inherent in first person narratives I believe.

As it is on earth so it shall be in heaven, Niven and Pournelle update hell to reflect the realities of modern religious thought although adhering to Dante's vision of hell. As I said I especially loved the residents of the eighth bolgia of the eighth circle.

Well Mrs. Bugbear may be amenable to built-in bookshelves when we build our new house in a few years. I'll just have to pitch the bookshelves it as adding to the R-value of the walls.

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