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::: Escape from Hell (Niven / Pournelle)

This is the sequel to their Inferno from years back and overall a worthy successor. Aimee Semple Macpherson is here, roaming Hell on her motorcycle looking for souls to save. J. Edgar Hoover is a demon (humorously known as Pink Talon). There's a Carl who I think is Carl Sagan. Anna Nicole Smith is in the Fourth Circle (hoarders and wasters), and there are strong hints that quite a few folks from the Bush administration are in the Eighth Circle in the Pit of Evil Counselors. Once again, at first glance some of the characters seem wildly inappropriately placed here in hell; then as Allen (and the reader) think it through, it begins to make sense. I'm not sure I'm all in favor of the ending as it seems a bit grandiose, but it works with the setup. Some characters from the last book are here, though in different places; Billy the Kid's fate is sad, but I was amused and quite heartened by Reverend Canon Don Camillus and his ice cream truck.

What I love about this book and its predecessor -- aside from the cracking good story and the entertainment of trying to identify the various people -- is that it actually manages to dig up some logic and sense in the concept of Hell. It also aligns with my personal philosophy that we make our own fates by our actions, not by some arbitrary randomness, and that we're always capable of learning. That even something as apparently horrible as hell could have a purpose beyond infinite sadism, and that no one is beyond redemption. For some people of course it's a longer and harder journey than for others, but that's as it should be. They have more to learn.

Now I'm going to go back and read the original. Sadly, I'm not fluent in Renaissance Italian (go figure) but in the conclusion the authors recommend Dorothy Sayers' translation. I didn't even know she'd done one. So I trip off to my shelf to see whose I have, thinking it would be John Ciardi's, and lo and behold -- it's hers! I think that's a sign.

Comments

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noeon
Mar. 12th, 2009 07:23 pm (UTC)
Yes! Sayers was a Dante scholar. That's part of what makes Lord Peter a wee bit tragic - he's her ideal man, as her husband was (by all accounts) not an intellectual equal.
noeon
Mar. 12th, 2009 07:29 pm (UTC)
PS Has anyone at HSU claimed Lord Peter yet? Cause... uh... he's on my list of hopefuls. *grins cheekily*
delphipsmith
Mar. 12th, 2009 07:43 pm (UTC)
No, nobody has. He's my ideal man, too :) I actually bought a book of John Donne because of him and Harriet. That scene in Gaudy Night where they're on the riverbank? Whew. Smokin'. Fairly scorches your fingertips on the page, despite the fact they never touch each other. *sigh*
noeon
Mar. 12th, 2009 07:49 pm (UTC)
I read more Donne because of that, too! Yes. Smokin'. Hotter because they *don't* touch each other. Their little ritual of days on which he proposes and finding the right language for polite request/polite decline. And I love the Viscount, too, when he spills Harriet's meringues.

He's always been my ideal. Oh, and the Bach Double Violin scene. Proverbial GUH!

Edited at 2009-03-12 07:49 pm (UTC)
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