Thursday, May 30, 2013

One of this year’s most anticipated books is Inferno by Dan Brown, once again taking us into the world of Robert Langdon (The Da Vinci Code, among others) and the secret symbolism contained in Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, a portion of his epic poem The Divine Comedy, telling of one soul’s tortured journey through hell, purgatory, and finally paradise guided by the poet Virgil.  I haven’t yet read Dan Brown’s latest, but for those interested in fiction centering on Dante’s master work, I recommend The Dante Club by Daniel Pearl.
The Divine Comedy was first translated into English in the late 1800s by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow while serving on the faculty of Harvard University.  The Dante Club is a fictionalized mystery centering on Longfellow and his real-life colleagues – Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes (father of the great jurist), poet James Russell Lowell and publisher J.T. Fields – who are assisting with proofreading and critiquing his translation process.  Like academics throughout the ages, they’re up against administrative bureaucrats who want to dictate the curriculum of the university and are performing the translation as a labor of love.

When a series of odd deaths begin occurring in the Boston/Cambridge area, the four friends slowly begin to realize that the deaths are punishments portrayed in the Inferno, retribution for particular sins that the 19th century American victims seem to have been guilty of.  Set against a backdrop of an America rebuilding after the recent Civil War and a Massachusetts adapting to the influx of both immigrants and former slaves, the story not only brings aspects of Dante’s work to life but also provides a glimpse into the growing pains of a great American metropolitan area.

The story is captivating, well researched, and highly recommended.

Monday, May 6, 2013

My cousin asked me for reading recommendations, having just finished the most recent Anita Blake book by Laurell K. Hamilton and having read The Strain series by Chuck Hogan and Guillermo del Toro.  Here's what I recommended for her:

The new Sookie Stackhouse book will be released tomorrow.  It is the last one of the series (Charlaine Harris announced that last year) and I've got it on pre-order. If you want something that will grab you as much as those books mentioned, I can't recommend highly enough A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. The first of a planned trilogy, the second book is also out (Shadow of Night) and the third is coming out next year, I think. I'm currently reading Joe Hill's NOS4A2 (Joe Hill is Stephen King's son who doesn't use his last name because he wanted to make it on his own) and that one has sucked me in as well in the best possible way.

Also, I seriously recommend the Kushiel series - two trilogies beginning with Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey. She never ceases to amaze and impress me.