A Short Stay in Hell by Steven L. Peck
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Mormon Soren Johansson dies and wakes up in the afterlife, only to find that Zoroastrianism was the one true faith. He's then banished to a hell suitable for his rehabilitation needs: a library of near infinite size, containing every possible book ever written, one of which is his life story. Can Soren find that elusive book?
I got this book for free from the publisher, and normally that would make it feel like a homework assignment assignment from a crabby teacher once the "free book" excitement wore off. Not so with this one. It's a damn good book.
A Short Stay in Hell reminds me of something Philip Jose Farmer would concoct after digging through some of Hermann Hesse's notes, or if Hermann Hesse tried writing Riverworld. Soren wakes up in hell with a perfect 25 year old body, gets free food from kiosks, and is resurrected when killed. Sounds Farmer-ish, right?
The library Soren wakes up in is based in part on Jorge Luis Borges Library of Babel. It's light-years tall, containing every 410 page book that could possibly ever be written. Needless to say, Soren's road to redemption isn't going to be a stroll down to the corner pub for a beer.
Lots of things happen in this slim volume. It explores what immortality would be like while performing a seemingly impossible task. I don't want to give too much away but there's a near-bottomless chasm between the two walls of the library and it gets heavy use.
Like I said, this book was pretty slim. About the only complaint I have would be that the writing was a bit rocky in the early going but it smoothed out after the prologue and really moved the story along. Other than that, I would have liked it to be three or four times this long. It's either a high 3 or a low 4. I'm going to go with the 4.
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