Review of A Short Stay In Hell by Steven L. Peck
Most Fascinating Trip to Hell . . . Ever
I’ve been to Hell a few times, but this was my most fascinating trip ever. Sure, my trips were through the eyes of characters in books that went there, but I have felt like I was in Hell on numerous occasions. Don’t even think about comparing the Hell of junior high, or any experience anyone on Earth has ever had to Steven L. Peck’s novella, A Short Stay in Hell. This is like no other journey you or I have ever had. Why? Because our existence here on Earth is just the blink of an eye when compared to the span of time that approaches eternity.
The sheer creativity of this novella (29,000 words) boggles the mind in its breadth and scope, and the writing was so thought provoking and gripping both for atheists and believers alike. It’s great fiction and I read this book in about two hours, and literally did not want to put it down. The 104 pages flew by as I read about Soren Johansson, a forty something year old man who died of brain cancer and ended up in a very different place than he was counting on.
He learns rather quickly from the demon he meets at the start that the only true religion is Zoroastrianism, and only those practitioners go to Heaven. Or perhaps that is a lie. Regardless, poor Soren is condemned along with the others that he meets. Each person goes to their own personal Hell, and Soren ends up in The Library, which is based on George Luis Borges story, “The Library of Babel.” You don’t need to have read the story to understand this book, and I shall not spoil some of the surprises here, but suffice it to say that Soren must accomplish a task that seems utterly impossible if he wishes to ever leave this terrible place where he has been condemned.
This book is so profound that it had me compulsively mulling over the terrifying implications for the past two days. The opening of A Short Stay in Hell is intriguing, but slightly confusing. It’s a frame story, but the rest of the book was very easy to understand and once I finished the last page all told from poor Soren’s point of view, I instantly turned to the first pages and read the whole first chapter again. It was one of those “wow” moments to go back and read them again.
I read a quote about this work from an author I greatly admire and I think it captures the essence of Peck’s novella flawlessly:
“Profound and disturbing, A Short Stay In Hell is a perfect blend of science fiction, theology, and horror. A terrifying meditation on faith, human nature, and the relentless scope of eternity. It will haunt you, fittingly, for a very, very long time.”
—Dan Wells, author of I Am Not a Serial Killer
I loved reading A Short Stay in Hell and it has given me an understanding of the human condition that I never had before. It’s hard for me to fathom how Steven L. Peck packed so much into this slim volume, or how difficult it was to whittle down this story to the razor sharp book that it is. This is no effete literary or philosophical book that distances the reader from the text. It pulls you in, tugs at your heart, makes you question the meaning of life and love, while being utterly captivating, gripping, exciting, mysterious, hopeful, and above all illuminating on the concept of forever.
View the novella on Amazon.com or visit the authors website here.
A Short Stay in Hell is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
—Paul Genesse, Editor of The Crimson Pact anthology series