Sunday, August 12, 2012
Book Review: A Short Stay in Hell by Steven L. Peck
Author: Steven L. Peck
Enjoyment Rating: ***
Source: Kindle for iPad
Books I've read this year: 96
I may be the only Mormon on the planet who doesn't have a think for C.S. Lewis. Oh, I think The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe works as a children's story, but the series lost me after that. And his more theoretical works don't do it at all for me unless I read them knowing that discussion will follow. I guess I'm just not that good at theoretical stuff. I loved Steven Peck's novel The Scholar of Moab and when I heard that he had a new book out (is it new? I see reviews stretching back to 2009, but I've heard a lot of hype about it lately), I bought it eagerly.
The book is actually more of a novella, possible to read in one sitting. In the opening pages, the narrator, a Mormon from Utah Valley, finds himself dead, at a young age, from brain cancer. When he gets to the afterlife, he discovers that Zoroastrianism was the true religion, and as a result, he has to spend some time in hell. Not too long, the demon in charge assures him-- just until he finds the book that contains his life story. So he's sent to a library. A big library. A huge library. A library with many times more books than there are electrons on earth. The residents of this particular hell can't even find a book with a single sentence that makes sense, let alone a whole book. So the narrator talks about what he does, groundhog day style, to make daily life (death?) tolerable in this kind of hell.
The story is interesting, well-done, and would work really, really well as a basis for group discussion in a university setting. I'm still thinking about it days later. I feel like my *** rating more reflects the fact that the story is a novella and therefore there's not a deep exploration of character and motives. In fact, it feels a little bit unusual for so much time to pass in such a short number of words.