Friday, August 13, 2010

Dante's Journey by JC Marino

Synopsis From Back Cover:

A flash of light and Detective Joe Dante steps through. 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 hot water... VERY hot.

This is going to be one of my odder reviews to date because of how I ended up comparing it to the previous book I just reviewed, Homecoming by Jason Garrett.  I don't want you to think that this was a work of Christian fiction because from what I can tell, it's not.  What I will say is that I felt this book talked more about redemption and God's forgiveness then the book that was supposed to talk about it.  The best part was that Dante's Journey wasn't preachy or over the top with that aspect, it just came through because of the journey that Joe Dante had to take through Hell.

Joe was a honorable cop and family man who was bent on revenge after both his daughters and wife were killed in one way or another by drugs and those that sell them.  He had become a bitter, angry man (not that I can blame him for it) and all he cared about was making the man he thought was responsible, Filippo Argenti, pay for his grief.

When the quest for revenge left both men dead and in Hell, Joe was still, pardon the pun, hell bent on quenching his thirst for payback.  Joe didn't even want to believe he was dead and it took him a while to come to terms with that.  Now I'm not going to go into the details about the the journey to find Argenti and what Joe had to go through to do that or even about the truth he discovers about what really happened to his family.  What I do want to talk about is the mental and emotional journey that Joe went through while he was in Hell.

The "journey" was more than just a physical one through the rings of Hell.  The journey was also about one man's path and how following that path eventually leads to forgiveness and redemption.  It's through this journey and seeing the suffering that Joe begins to realize the truth, that maybe he does belong in Hell.  That his anger and thirst for revenge have tainted him and made him into something less than a moral man.  It's by discovering the truth about what really happened and coming to grips with that reality that Joe is able to deal with his emotions and is even able to forgive those that were responsible for the deaths of his family.  It's through that forgiveness of others that Joe is able to discover what sins he was guilty of and how he must forgive himself and accept God's forgiveness as well.  It's only through that acceptance and forgiveness that Joe is able to complete his journey through Hell and end up in the place he truly deserved to be.

So now I'm left with and even bigger question in my head.  Can a book that is in fantasy and has nothing to do with the genre of Christian fiction be put into that category because of the underlining message?  Or is it the author and publisher that must decided what genre to place a book into?  I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm even more confused about what makes a book Christian fiction and what makes it a great book with some sort of undertones to it?

No matter what genre this book falls into, I really enjoyed it not only for the wonderful imagery the author conjures up in his descriptions of Hell and those residing in it but also because it's of the wonderful narrative that almost everyone should be able to relate too.  Joe's journey is one that we all find ourselves on at some point in our lives, eventually we all have to come to grips with what has been done to us as well as what we've done to others.  We all need to reach that place in our lives where we can move on from those incidents and let forgiveness make them easier to bare and accept.

I'm really hoping that everyone gets a chance to read this one at some point regardless of what the book is classified as.  It has elements of fantasy, mystery, and the religious but the whole is so much more than that.  It's a journey in that classic sense of discovery and growth, and not one to be missed.


Lydia said...

I've read a few books that are not classified as "Christian" literature, but really have a beautiful, underlying message. Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork is coming to mind immediately.

I wouldn't lump anything under the header of "Christian Fiction" just because of how horrible many of the books under that header are today. I have as much distaste for that label as I do for Womens Lit.

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

I wouldn't necessary put Dante's Inferno into the Christian Lit area either IMO.

I enjoyed this book as well and if you have to label it, I labeled it as sci-fi. It really spoke to me in that way. Anyway, why label it? If you liked it, label it as a good book. ;)

Melissa (My words and pages) said...

You really asked a great question here. I hope this book doesn't get classified just in Christian Lit as I think there are many readers who would miss it, who would have loved it.

I am so glad you enjoyed reading the book!:)

Ryan said...

Hey everyone I wanted to share an email the author, JC Marino, sent me regading the whole Christian Fiction issue.

Hi Ryan,

I also wanted to give you my opinion on the whole "Christian" genre question you posed.

I think the decision on whether a book fits into that genre is in the difference between:

A Christian Book versus a Book that's Christian.

A Christian book assumes that Jesus (or some symbolic representation of Jesus) is the Son of God and acceptance of that leads to salvation.

A book that's Christian supports the general teachings of Christ without assuming He's God's son.

"Dante's Journey" is a book that's Christian, in that the main character's faith is Christian, but the book never states that Jesus is the Son of God and accepting that leads to Paradise. It only states that some people believe that.

In fact, "Dante's Journey" shows about as many Christians in Hell as non-Christians.
Some of the characters in "Dante's Journey" would not be in Hell if they did what they did, yet accepted Christ.

In fact, one of the characters in "Dante's Journey" (Joe's priest) even says that he could have been the same exact person, yet find paradise if he kept his faith in Christ. That's why he felt like a hypocrite and ended up in Hell. Once someone accepts Christ, they're saved. But "Dante's Journey" pretty much says that people are in Hell for betraying their own beliefs or their own conscience. And their conscience is the bridge to God. That would not be the message of a Christian book.

Also, a Christian book has language restrictions. I sent Dante's Journey to a couple of Christian publishers and they said that the language had to be changed.

I would say that a book like The Exorcist comes more under horror than anything else (true "horror" not to be confused with the "slasher" genre).

Though the The Exorcist may assume that Christ is the Son of God, the language would never pass muster, so it wouldn't be considered a Christian book.

And, it doesn't really promote any positive Christian values (unless you consider promoting fear of Hell as being a value) so it's not really a book that's Christian.

Becca said...

This sounds like a very interesting book. I haven't gotten to read Dante's Inferno yet, even though I own it. Will it make more sense if I read Dante before I read this one, or do I know enough about it already plus with what Marino adds in to enjoy this? I really do need to get to Dante, though.

Interesting how you can send a message without being hit over the head with it, isn't it? How this book gets more of a Christian message across than the one that is labeled CF? Sometimes subtlety, implying and hints really are the best way to send a message. I don't like to be hit over the head either. If anything it turns me off of the message and makes me rebel against the person pressuring me to understand their point of view.

Great review, Ryan. I am adding this to my TBR list.