For me Dante’s Inferno was always an intriguing proposition, but I was put off reading it – convinced that it was going to be a very hard (and boring) read. Now I don’t have to try and read it, as I’ve just read this novel instead! Apparently it follows Dante’s Inferno very closely, with an identically structured Hell that has nine circles, in each of which different types of sinners are tormented by eternal punishments that closely match their own sins. It’s the ultimate poetic justice. The main character, Dante, has to somehow navigate through all nine circles if he is to have any chance of escaping Hell.
And so it is in Marino’s book too. The main character is Joe Dante, a tough Boston cop who has seen his family killed by a drug gang. He relentlessly pursues the drug baron, and after a final showdown that he can only partially remember, he finds himself in a strange place. A very strange place indeed. Given the book’s title I’m not exactly spoiling the plot by telling you he has ended up in Hell, though at first Joe Dante doesn’t realize it. All he can think about is tracking down the person responsible for his family’s death, and wherever Joe is and whatever happens, he will not be deterred.
Right from the outset he encounters totally bizarre things and creatures, but only slowly does he start to comprehend that he may have died. For a long time his mind refuses to accept the obvious truth, but even after it does he remains undaunted. Obviously the killer is here, and he will find him. It is also obvious to Joe that he doesn’t really belong here; after all, he is a good man.
Joe may be the pursuer, but he quickly becomes the pursued too. The trouble is that he is pursued by all manner of evil demons which are intent on stopping him. As he works his way through the nightmare landscapes and encounters unspeakable horrors, he gradually pieces together the events leading up to his death. Slowly he is forced to reassess his life, his enemies, his mission, and himself.
Does that sound like a great storyline? Well, it is, though having said that I didn’t quite enjoy the book as much as I thought I would. Part of the trouble was the Joe Dante character. He is a stubborn “wise-ass”, but when he wise-assess himself through every page of the book it starts to wear a bit thin. I also think the book could be shortened quite a bit. I know Dante’s Inferno was an epic poem, but this book could do with some “un-epic-ing”. You read about loads of different sinners and torments, but more just keep on coming. In this case I feel that less might have been better than more. I also found the religious theme a bit over-the-top, though that’s a bit of a dumb comment from me. What did I expect in a book that is based in Hell?
Nonetheless this was an enjoyable and an easy read. The strong points are the storyline and the imagination (and kudos to the original Dante too, of course), and they far outweigh my quibbles. If you like fantasy novels with a Hellish bent, I’d strongly recommend this novel. I’d rate the book 3 stars.
- Dante’s Journey
- by JC Marino
- Pages 366: paperback
- Star Publish, 2010
For more information on the book as well as the author, please link to Layers of Thought’s preview of Dante’s Journey.
JC Marino is hosting a give away on Goodreads for his book. It is international and ends October 7th.
As always John will be addressing all the comments for this post. He almost always responds. Especially if I bug him every five minutes. So please don’t for get to check the follow up box.
This book will be included in two challenges: RIP V and New Author.
Stay tuned for more horror “ish” reads to celebrate the season!