Damnation Nation’s extensive market research, its recent influx of private equity executives, and the eagerly expected eventual arrival of Newt Gingrich has spurred innovation in the torturous realm’s offerings. Not only has the number of Circles ballooned from nine to exactly 666 (thank you, recently-deceased brand management consultants!), but also, the Underworld’s revised onboarding procedures now allow for the newly dead—in the current Hades parlance, “clients”—to choose the Circle where they’ll be tortured for eternity.
Providing difficult choices among terrible options is—like with cable TV—in keeping with Hell’s overall philosophy of customer dissatisfaction, which is why Wirecutter does not recommend Hell, seeing Heaven as a better value. But for those readers with a lifetime record of surpassing cruelty, who have lost a bet with the Devil, or who habitually drive up the shoulder to cut ahead of drivers waiting politely to merge into traffic, Wirecutter to the rescue!
Top Pick for Most People
Swipe right on Circle 482. Here, your left hand is a smartphone. Your social media accounts only follow your crazy uncle J.J.; your Spotify alternates between playing your most-hated songs ear-splittingly loudly and your favorite ones too softly to hear above your tinnitus, and every two minutes you get a notification pushing Candy Crush upgrades. Annoying, but according to extensive Wirecutter testing, reception is the best we’ve encountered, the data plan really is unlimited, and your battery lasts all day—which, for us, makes Circle 482 smartphone heaven.
Got a few million to spend on
indulgences political and think tank donations? In Circle 53 you get to live in a libertarian utopia where beautiful oil rigs cast shadows over the land, the weather alternates between wondrous hurricanes and balmy heat domes, and The New York Times is owned by Rupert Murdoch. These upsides outweigh the significant downside, consisting of enduring months-long yachting vacations with doppelgängers of Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas.
Wirecutter initially selected 52 Circles, based upon a combination of product innovation, desirable features, and Yelp reviews. Led by our primary reviewer, we narrowed the list down to the Circles described here, and, to test for livability, cost, and durability, sentenced to each Circle, for eternity, two unpaid interns.
Why You Should Trust Us
Our expert, Dante Alighieri, has spent the last 922 years writing and researching the afterworld. He also is a political junky, meditates, and plays competitive bocce.
Circles To Avoid
Circle 154 is Hell’s fastest-growing circle, but frankly, Wirecutter does not see the attraction. You live in a decent house, but it’s always 110 degrees and you’re forever stuck in a freeway traffic jam. When you try to change lanes, you get cut off by a Tesla, a honking semi clips your front end, or a pickup-driving yahoo threatens you with a sawed-off; those rare times you’re successful, your new lane stops, and the one you left speeds up. We read the fine print on this one, which refers to Circle 154 interchangeably with Atlanta, Houston, Miami, Phoenix, and Dallas. Not worth it.
Think of Circle 317 as Prometheus 2.0: every day, a vulture descends to eat out your liver. However, unlike for the Greek god whose organs automagically regenerated, here the liver-ectomy consists of an instant, painless surgery—but because Hell’s doctors are out-of-network, your calls are shuffled from the provider’s billing specialist to insurance company claims staff, in between sitting on hold listening to an endless Muzak version of Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” before you get cut off and having to call in again. Take a pass.
The good news about Circle 559 is that you get to consume as much as you want of products you boycotted when alive, like Chick-Fil-A, Bud Light, or the hypothetical cakes that a right-wing litigant didn’t want to be forced to bake because some gay person, somewhere, might have wanted to order them. The bad news is that you’re sentenced to digest an endless supply of deep-fried fast-food chicken patties, swill flavorless beer, and eat desserts that by comparison make week-old Entenmann’s taste better than winners of the Great British Bake-Off—in a Target food court, under a huge Huawei TV playing a CGI cage match between Woody Allen and Mel Gibson. Buyer beware.
Asset maximizing has come to Hell, with Circle 639 also operating as a profit-center subcontracting out to Santa Claus. The factory scenes in Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times may be hilarious, but we found Circle 611 to be no joke: you will spend the rest of time performing painful repetitive tasks and harangued by supervisors spying on your every move, while the head of the firm (that is, Satan) gives interviews saying how lucky you are to be there. This Circle is housed in physical locations above the Earth’s surface, disguised with signage reading “Amazon Distribution Center.” Just say no.