Well, I downloaded the book and read it fairly quickly. I haven't read all the posts in this thread, so I'm not responding to anyone/anything in particular.
If Bell is a universalist, he sure fooled me. Universalism is God forcing everyone to be saved. What Bell ponders is that God wants all the world to be saved and will do everything possible to see that happen, but will allow an individual to choose not to be saved. That last line is where I have seen many critics say that Bell is being dishonest. Those who honor a Wesleyan background, like many of us on this forum, have no issues with this. We believe that we choose. Bell having been raised in and educated through Reformed theology is heretical to those he grew up.
Bell, in my opinion, correctly states that what we say about the afterlife is mostly speculation. Scripture does not spend lots of time describing the afterlife and so Bell offers his views. Some I agree with, some I do not.
The only surprise of the book for me is that Bell is much more open to stating his beliefs than Brian McLaren. Bell unveils his beliefs about heaven and hell whereas McLaren teases his readers with his possible view while always seeming to have an escape hatch. Bell's understanding of heaven/hell is similar to C.S. Lewis, but described more clearly with Scripture and theology to back his claim.
My major complaints of the book is more with me than the book. The book did not challenge me or my beliefs, but part of that is because I have spent many, many hours studying the subjects of the book. For the most part, Bell coming from a Reformed background, came strikingly close to my own then conclusions back in 2006. If anything, Bell seems to confirm what I already pretty much believed. The only other complaint is that Bell's flair for hyperbole makes me feel like I'm almost reading fiction at times. I can definitely see how feathers could be riled.
All of that being said, for those who have not explored the issues will find Bell asking questions that will lead to answers not dissimilar to his own. Since I am of similar answers, I do not have an issue with this. Those who embrace more of a Reformed Christianity will probably have multiple issues. My personal opinion is that it is a very, very good book but one that would have helped me personally more five years ago than now.