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A Short Stay in Hell

by Steven L. Peck

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11710186,299 (4.21)1
In this haunting existential novella, author, philosopher, and ecologist Peck explores a subversive vision of eternity, taking the reader on a journey through the afterlife of a world where everything everyone believed in turns out to be wrong.

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I was reading about the Borges "The Library of Babel" all about a huge (albeit finite) library containing every book that could ever be written (so long as it contains 410 pages containing 40 lines of 80 characters each), which reminded me of the short story A Short Stay in Hell, so I re-read it.

This is a thoroughly intriguing exploration of that same idea, wrapped in the idea that this is an afterlife (turns out the Zoroastrians were right all along). There are some interesting consequences to a library light-years across and the societies that develop therein.

It's well worth the read (or a re-read even). ( )
  jpv0 | Jul 21, 2021 |
Surprisingly good existential novela. Recently finished reading it for the second time and I'm already looking forward to the next read. It's difficult but also amazing to imagine the sheer magnitude of the task required for the character to find his way out of Hell. The circumstances found in this particular version of Hell represent a tailored punishment by a demon servant of the god of Zoroastrianism which came as a result of not believing in the god of Zoroastrianism (which has only had a few hundred thousand believers at any one time although it is one of the world's oldest religions). His task is to find the one book which contains all the details of his life, hidden somewhere in a library that contains all the random books that ever could be written using all the letters and punctuation on a standard keyboard. These books needn't contain legible sentences--the vast majority do not. ( )
  micahammon | Dec 19, 2020 |
A novella based on a simple idea, that the narrator has died and gone to hell, which turns out to be a personalized hell based on the Borges short story "The Library of Babel." I loved it! The novella is really a haunting exploration of the concept of eternity, as the protagonist must search among countless books to find the one book that contains his life story. He is in library for eons, millions upon millions of years, and the dramatic tension comes from the way that he learns to mark time and accept the harrowing scope of eternity. Makes me want to read more Peck for sure. ( )
  jalbacutler | Jan 10, 2017 |
So it turns out there is a God, & Hell is a real place for all the non-believers, & the one true faith is ... Zoroastrianism. Everyone else goes to Hell.

But, our hero, a 45 year old Mormon father & cancer victim, finds out that Hell is finite: not a place of eternal burning, but of "correction." He also learns there is more than 1 Hell. Different people go to different Hells. Soren seems to have lived a decent life, with the one fatal flaw of choosing the wrong religion. So he gets sent to the Library of Babel, a place that contains all books ever written, yet to be written, & all variations thereof.

And, at first blush, Hell doesn't seem so bad: everyone seems to be in their perfect body, you can order whatever you like to eat & it comes immediately, you owe nothing, you are not bound by Earthly obligations, you can drink to excess with no hangover, you can die... & you will come back the next day, perfect again. And... You are not alone. This is not a personal Hell. The trick is this: to get out, you must find the book containing the story of your life, in its perfect form - no errors, complete - and push it through a slot.

Given the size of the library, you know this isn't quite as easy as it sounds. But you don't know the real magnitude until someone opens a book, & sees a book full of punctuation. They're not sorting through just real books, or books about other people, or such books with errors. They must sort through any book possible, a Sisyphean task if there ever was one.

Soren realizes that humans will do what humans do, no matter where they are: love, learn, create order & structure, create chaos, doubt, believe ... But he also learns that without hope, it is all meaningless.

It's a short listen/read, but this book captures the big themes of life in a brief synopsis. Pick it up when you're in the mood for reflection on the nature of mankind. ( )
  LauraCerone | May 26, 2016 |
Well-written enjoyable read. I would like to have given it more stars but I found the ending extremely unsatisfactory. Not in a Life of Pi, or The Giver way, but more of "I waded through hell with you for that?!"

If it weren't for the ending, I would happily recommend this intriguing book to all my friends. ( )
  LeslieGNelson | Sep 10, 2013 |
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In this haunting existential novella, author, philosopher, and ecologist Peck explores a subversive vision of eternity, taking the reader on a journey through the afterlife of a world where everything everyone believed in turns out to be wrong.

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