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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

"Dante's Journey" by JC Marino (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Read a chapter excerpt from Dante's Journey Here
Order Dante's Journey from Amazon Here

AUTHOR INFORMATION: JC Marino is from Boston originally and has several degrees in the fields of Criminal Justice, Software Engineering, Artificial Intelligence, and Creative Writing. He has also written several screenplays that were optioned and/or made advanced placement in both the Nicholls and Austin Screenwriting Competitions. He has worked in various corporations such as FOX as well as the USAF. He currently lives in L.A. and this is his debut novel.

PLOT SUMMARY: When a flash of light envelopes Detective Joseph “Joe” Dante, little does he know where it will take him and the tribulations he will have to endure next. No longer on the cobblestone streets of 1961 Boston, Joe finds himself in a horrifying new world-Hell itself. Joe was in hot pursuit of his family's killer, drug lord Filippo Argenti, when both were killed, and isn't about to let a little thing like death slow him down. So, with a healthy dose of New England stubbornness and the help of a mysterious guide, Virgil DiMini, Joe must evade angry demons, and search ever-lower through the rings of the original Dante's Inferno in hopes of finding justice for his wife and children. However, Joe will soon discover that behind every sin lies a secret and each secret revealed could land Joe in an eternity of troubles and this includes revelations about Joe’s death.

FORMAT/INFO: Dante’s Journey is 366 pages divided into Fifty-five named and Canto numbered chapters with a prologue and epilogue. Narration is via first person and features Joseph “Joe” Dante. This book has a self-contained plot line.

February 22, 2010 marked the trade paperback publication of Dante’s Journey via Star Publish LLC.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: This book is a re-imagining of the poem Dante’s Inferno and like the original poem; it is about the journey of the narrator and main protagonist Joseph “Joe” Dante.

The story begins with Joe Dante remembering a white light and finding himself awakened in a strange world. He apparently does not remember how he got here but he remembers his home circa 1960s Boston, his job as a police detective, his family and his nemesis drug lord Filippo Argenti. As he notices a strange set of foot prints and follows them he comes upon a group of people with strange clothing and since no one can understand him, he becomes a bit flabbergasted. It’s at this point that he meets a guide of sorts who calls himself Virgil and who seems to know more about Joe Dante than it is possible.

Thus begins Dante’s Journey which will see him like the Original Dante in Dante’s Inferno journey deeper through the nine circles of hell in his quest to make meaning of his life, his death, his hatred towards Filippo Argenti and all the various people he has met or known in his lifetime.

The book begins with a prologue in which Dante states that this is the beginning of his journey and the reader is also left a bit in the dark about who Dante is and whether he is actually in Hell. Dante’s back story is progressively covered in chapters in between which are labeled as “Thoughts of home” and each of them focus on one character from his life, some of whom he meets in his current journey.

The book also has a mystery in the sense as to what happened to Dante and how he ended up in the place and why Virgil is helping him. The character of Virgil is also something of an enigma as he starts out to be a bystander but who’s motives are completely unknown to Dante . He seems to have an inscrutable demeanor and also knowledge about the various sundry in the hellish landscape. Joe Dante as a character comes off a bit annoying in the start with his constant refusal to accept his new surroundings, however as the story progresses and the reader gets to know more about him and his life we understand who he is and why he acts the way he does. The other characters whom we meet in this story are a varied bunch and most of them have ties to Dante either comradely or antagonistically and are revealed to be a lot deeper than originally assumed.

The author has done a neat job of re-imagining the original and mixing it with his own plot to create this story. The writing though a bit languid in places still manages to draw the reader in and immerse them in the journey. Another thing I noted was Joe Dante’s vocabulary seemed to be consistent with the vocabulary of a person in the 1960s and this was a nice touch by the author as well. The author has also inserted some nice quirks related to being a Red Sox fan and Joe Dante keeps on encountering people who tell him about his favourite team’s future debacles.

In the end I can safely say that this book is probably one of the best debuts which I have read recently. It’s really hard to get an idea about the book as the blurb doesn't do it justice. I thoroughly enjoyed this re imagining of Dante's account through the nine levels of hell, though Dante in this case is a 1960's Boston cop and his journey focuses him to relive his life experiences and understand why he's in hell and his perceptions about the various personas in his mortal life. A great read with a mix of fantasy, mystery, and about the multifarious nature of humanity. Dante's Journey was a spectacular read for me, make sure that you read it and discover JC Marino.


Bastard said...

Don't have much time to read the full review, but I take it this is a standalone book and not a series? Looks interesting in the little I read.

The Reader said...

Hey Bastard

It was a good read though starts a bit slow. This book is a standalone though the author has plans for 2 more books as revealed in Seak's[Bryce]review Over here[]read the last line.

I also asked the author about it & he specified he's planning it on the lines of Dante's Divine Comedy and as this was the first part mirroring Inferno there could be 2 more books mirroring Purgatory & Paradise.

One last thing this books ends perfectly & you can go on with the feeling of complete closure for Joseph Dante at the end of the last chapter.


Bastard said...

Thanks. I prefer reading a series rather than a standalone, which is why I asked. A book having closure, if it's part of a series, really has no weight with me in regard of motivating me to read a series. Though it's good to know.

But seeing as there seems to be some follow-up stories, I'll make sure to keep an eye on this one.

I've never read the Divine Comedy... or maybe I did while in school and don't remember well, maybe just a portion.

Looks like there aren't many copies being distributed at the moment from what I can see. Amazon has 3 copies left, though more coming, and Bookdepository is out of stock. Looking at other reactions around it seems like this book has been well received.


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