meep (meep) wrote,

RIP, Jerry Pournelle The first book (co-)authored by him I read was Inferno, which, if anything, I…

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Uncultured oaf that I am, I've never gotten around to reading Dante's Divine Comedy* but my daughter has; I should ask her which one she likes better. Somehow I doubt that she got all the references in the Niven & Pournelle version.

I began reading Jerry's SF when I was in junior high school, I think, and was very excited to meet him at the 1974 Worldcon in DC, where he was kind enough to sign my copy of Analog with his story "The Mercenary". I liked his tales of Colonel Falkenberg's regiment better than Gordy Dickson's Dorsai tales; the Dorsai always seemed superhuman to me, while Falkenberg and his men were people I could identify with.

*I am assured that the non-Inferno parts are boring as...yeah.
Look, I understand why people generally find Inferno the most compelling of the three books -- it's the most visceral, for definite. It's pretty dishy re: political vendettas & gossip. you get the classical figures -- you can't get the pagans into purgatory or heaven, after all.


Paradiso has a lot of mathematical imagery and lots of gorgeousness - full of faith, hope, and charity, natch.

I find Purgatorio the most compelling, as I think it's the most human of the three. both those in Inferno & Paradiso are in their final places. They are not ever to leave their spheres. But Purgatorio has an implicit movement - these people are ultimately saved, but not yet in Heaven. They've still got a struggle going on.

The way Niven & Pournelle made their Inferno a little relatable is that their characters aren't stuck in Hell (unlike with Dante). In Dante's, there really is no hope. You're damned, and that's it. In N&P, you can escape, though it's extremely difficult (and not a promise, unlike Purgatory).

Anyway, I like Purgatorio. It may be the least popular of the three, but one hopes it's what most of us will deal with at some point.
I'll have to have a go at it, then.
Pournelle was a big influence on me. He'll be missed.
It would be interesting to try and figure out whether he had more influence as a writer, inspiring others, or as an editor of what seemed like several zillion anthologies, to say nothing of creating the War World sandbox.