Inferno by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

A mid-range science fiction writer dies in a bizarre accident at an sf convention room party. He wakes up in a world which he recognises, but has great difficulty accepting, as Dante’s vision of Hell from ‘The Divine Comedy’ – except his Virgil is Benito Mussolini…

After ‘The Mote in God’s Eye’ (which came over to me like a very well-detailed Star Trek episode), this book was a surprise – satire, and specifically satire centring on the science fiction fan world. (By ‘centring’, I don’t mean that that was its focus; rather, I use ‘centring’ in a dynamic sense, meaning that the science-fictional explanation is the one the protagonist keeps trying to get back to, and also one the authors keep returning to for some of the examples of the damned they show us in Hell) (or in the science fiction convention the novel starts in, which may or may not be the same!).

Written in 1976, there will be aspects of this novel which don’t sit easily with present-day readers, but I was amazed when I first read it on release.


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