"What an impressive book! The verse is wonderful." -- Michael Martin, author of The Impossibility Of God and Atheism: A Philosophical Justification

Hi All:

I posted this in the poetry group as well. My book has an official release date of Aug 11, but it is available online now.

I have a few volumes on hand, and if you are willing to write a review for the book, send me a note, and I ship out a copy for free to the first five or so that respond (I'm offering five for the poetry group as well)

Press release is below...

More information is at http://www.blackburnianpress.com

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Dante Alighieri's magnificent Inferno has ruled for centuries as literature's most imaginative depiction of the fates of the damned. As a masterwork of allegorical fantasy, it stands unequaled. As a survey of the true causes of human misery, it fails utterly, built as it was upon a medieval religious worldview divorced from reality.

S.A. Alenthony's The Infernova is the new book that rectifies this error by turning the classic vision of the Christian hell upside-down. Retelling the poem from an atheist's perspective, the story parallels Dante's descent through nine infamous circles where increasingly pernicious sinners endure their symbolic punishments. The upper circles house the minor offenders: those who lacked clarity or promoted fallacious arguments. The middle levels incarcerate those who preyed upon-and profited from-irrationality: paranormalists, conspiracy theorists, astrologers, and their ilk. Lower and yet darker realms are reserved for religion's criminals, such as televangelist-frauds, pedophile-priests, and terrorists, while at the pit's nadir reside the legions of the world's prophets and a virtual menagerie of the countless gods born of their fevered imaginations.

Dante was famously accompanied on his journey by his revered hero, the Roman poet Virgil. In The Infernova, it is the satirical and irreligious gadfly Mark Twain who takes the role of guide and companion. As their odyssey continues, the dangers of irrational and mystical thinking grow more clear, and their dialogues and encounters with hell's residents provide a unique tableau on which to set out the arguments against supernaturalism.

Mythological traditions have long used narratives and parables as vehicles to get their messages across. While secular writers have produced a steady stream of quality non-fiction recently, works of fiction and poetry are more rare. The Infernova addresses the paucity of atheist imaginative writing, and will be of interest to all manner of freethinkers, humanists, and skeptical persons looking for a different kind of deconstruction of the world's superstitions.

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Wow, sounds really awesome! I'd love to read it. :)
Below is a new review of the book that will be published in the Aug-Sept issue of The Moral Atheist, the magazine of Atheists For Human Rights.

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S. A. Alenthony has presented to all of us freethinkers, of whatever stripe, a truly masterful work of literary achievement. The Infernova, as you have probably already guessed, is a parody of Dante Aleghieri's (1265 1321) time honored classic, The Inferno. The reader does not need to be familiar with the nearly 700 year old original in order to greatly enjoy this new and remarkable 'take-off.' Perhaps the only thing that it would be helpful for the reader to know is that Dante was the scion of a well-to-do Florentine family and a real toady to the Catholic Church. Dante's imaginary Hell is richly populated not only with ordinary sinners, but is packed with enemies of the Church both real—often identified by name—and imaginary, such as the mythological gods of paganism. Dante's nine circles, or levels, of Hell are filled with suffering souls who range from those who were simply guilty of doubt, to those who led thousands or even whole nations to—the worst sin of all—disobedience of the Church's teachings. Just as Dante was guided on his journey through Hell by a celebrated writer, so too here—but it is the irreverent Mark Twain taking the role of Virgil. What a perfect choice!

In The Infernova, as in any good parody, the situation is reversed. In Alenthony's Hell, it is the religious who receive their just desserts at various levels of severity. Names are named, from early snake-oil salesmen such as Mary Baker Eddie and L. Ron Hubbard to those who lead larger movements such as Jim Jones, and Charles Taze Russell. In deeper levels of hell, the founders of national and international religions such as Joseph Smith, Abraham, and Moses are 'called out.' Finally, in Canto XXX, our boy J.C.—simply referred to as "Christ"—and the Islamic 'Mohammed' are not spared.

The descriptions of each succeeding level of Hell are, like Dante's original, one of the most fascinating and engaging features of the book. Although Alenthony thankfully does not quite share Dante's fascination for sheer blood and gore, the depictions of each level dramatically involve the reader's senses of vision, hearing and even smell. Each dreadful circle of Hell is eloquently drawn for the reader to clearly imagine. In addition, the exact punishment chosen for the particular offender is often cleverly devised to perfectly fit the offense. For example, one large group of former humans on earth was transformed into plants and animals, and as Mark Twain explains in Canto XXI, '"But their awareness kept intact. They've been/ transformed to live in a primitive state,/ and to first-hand witness the origin/ of new species. That is the timeless fate/ for Creationists." I laughed when I heard/ all this, as the irony was so great.'

Perhaps the most amazing feature of Alenthony's book is his skill and use of the particular narrative poetic form that he employs. The poetic pattern used is the rather difficult form of three line stanzas where the first and third lines rhyme, and the middle line forms the model for the first and third lines of the succeeding stanza. In other words, the rhyming pattern is as follows: ABA, BCB, CDC, etcetera (see above). Each Canto, or chapter, of approximately the same length as was Dante's—thirty-four Cantos in all—contain a long series of triplet stanzas ending with a dramatic rhyming couplet. All of this is done in such a subtle way, with many rhymes often occurring at mid-sentence, so that the reader is often only dimly aware that there is a regular rhyming pattern at all. The story just flows in a very natural story-telling way. Incidentally, Alenthony chose this more rigorous route because it was the exact pattern that Dante followed, even though most translations of The Inferno rhyme only the first and third lines of each stanza. Translation from the original old-Italian is just too difficult for the translator to retain both the meaning and the complex rhyming pattern.

It is difficult for this reviewer to come up with even one slight criticism, which I know is somewhat traditional for reviewers to do. If absolutely pushed to the wall, I would say that I might have enjoyed the naming of a few more names of religious rapscallions, and a few less naming of extremely obscure ancient Aztec gods and/or the names of millennia-old water-spirits featured particularly in Canto XXXI.

I may be playing personal favorites here, but I'd like to be reassured that the likes of Jerry Falwell, Oral Roberts, Garner Ted Armstrong, Tammy Fay Baker, and Aimee Semple McPherson, to name just a few, are down there somewhere. However, judging from the books otherwise inclusivity of religious sinners, I can rest assured that they have not escaped Alenthony's Hell.

In summary, I highly recommend this truly remarkable modern day masterpiece.

-Donald Havis, Steering Committee, San Francisco Atheists
S. A., this does look like an entertaining book. Are you getting hate mail and death threats? Is it written in verse?
No hate mail or threats yet!

Yes, it is written in the same terza rima style that Dante used.
I'm guessing you've already exhausted your review copies?
Hi Ralph:

I can send you a copy. Send me a note with your address. I just ask you post a review on Amazon.

-S.A.

That sounds wonderful!  I'll look for it for Christmas.

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