Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Review by JD: Dante’s Journey ~ by JC Marino


51EVfFeV2XLA creative and interesting fantasy novel that is set in Hell. But this isn’t just any old Hell; this is Hell modeled on the classic Dante’s Inferno.

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!


ThePageTurner said...

Thanks John! I will be putting this in my TBR queue. I, too, have always been interested in Dante's Infernal. It seems to be referenced in so many books I read. My son, Connor, read it for extra credit in his honors english class last year and is pretty familiar with the 9 circles. He may want to read this take on it as well.

John D said...

Good morning Rose. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Would Conor recommend reading the original? Covering something in class and enjoyment often don't go hand in hand - I can't think of many of my English class assignments that I'd like to revisit!

Blodeuedd said...

Lol, so you bug him every 5 minutes :)

Fantasy with a hellish bent. Hm, is it too hellish? I do not like too hellish

Unknown said...

Blodeuedd -
Yep....He forgets constantly. He gets all into his nerdy spreadsheet mode and I have to remind him. lol...

Like right now.

John D said...

Hey - enough of the reminding!

Blodeuedd - I'dhave to say that this book is about as Hellish as it is possible to be. Though not really scary; more like fantasy + action + a little thought provoking here and there.

Not too much of the latter, but it makes you think a bit about the difference (or is there a difference?) between evil deeds and an evil person.

ibpurpledragon said...

hmm, to me hell was the Rod Sterling classic where the poor smuck who wanted to read was left in a world with no people, lots of books and broken glasses.

John D said...

Hi Bill,

Thanks for stopping by. That would indeed be cruel, heartless and Hellish.

We had another one at lunchtime. I got something sticky on my fingers which just wouldn't come off. Can you imagine having to live your life being amazingly sticky? We were joking of course, but there is probably a great Monty Pythonesque spoof on Dante's Inferno brewing somewhere.

John D said...

How about a lifetime's supply of teabags but no water?!

logankstewart said...

Gah. I read an annotated Inferno back in high school and remembered liking it, though it was difficult. As for Dante's Journey, I've read mostly favorable reviews of this book, but I have no desire at all to read it for two reasons. One, I can't get over the knock-off of the original epic, though I understand how this could be beneficial to many. Two, that cover is just ridiculous. I'm generally not a book-by-the-cover reader, but c'mon, this one looks like a YA read (though I admit, the flames are cool).

That said, nice review, but I think I'll skip this one.

John D said...

Hi Logan. Thanks for the comments.

Personally I don't mind that the story is based so heavily on the original. Dante's Inferno is a great example of a classic that everyone kind of knows about, but hardly anyone has read (or ever will read). Books like this make it more accessible. And the book is called "Dante's Journey" so its not like he's trying to hide the original source.

And I do have to say, Marino has turned it into a very neat story that is easy to read. Good material for a YA audience.

And they are cool flames. And cool coffins too.

Kailana said...

This sounds interesting. I have never heard of it before. Not sure if I would read it, but thanks for bringing it to my attention!

John D said...

Hi Kailana,
Thanks for the comment. This book would certainly fit nicely with the RIP challenge that you're doing.

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