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A Short Stay in Hell Paperback – March 23, 2012
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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
An irresistible invention. Peck has somehow squeezed all of human experience, not to mention near-infinite expanses of space and time, into one miraculously slim novella. You won t be able to stop thinking about this book. ---- Ken Jennings, author of Brainiac and Maphead
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I like to describe this story as philosophical horror. There is some violence. No monsters really, except for an unsettlingly cheerful demon who greets the protagonist, Soren, at the start. The heart and soul of the horror in this story draws its depth from the irony in the title. Unfathomable eons of time pass, and they pass painfully. The novella itself is a little over 100 pages, compounding the irony of the concept: A Short Stay in Hell.
What makes this passage of time so horrifying is a profound sense that anything meaningful is an illusion which unravels into a truly meaningless existence over time. All relationships and commitments from Earth life have been dissolved, and there is no way to find out what is happening to the people you once loved and left behind. From the maddening tedium of finding one coherent phrase, let alone one real word, in a string of nonsensical letters and punctuation marks among the seemingly endless rows of books. To the homogeneity of the Library’s population in their ethnic makeup, language, “perfect body” age, and overall cultural background. Existence is monotonous, and nothing changes with time. Everything resets the next morning–anyone who has died comes back to life. And the most intimate of relationships are ever-temporary, futile, and literally fruitless. So, there are no consequences. There is no progression. There is seemingly no point to anything at all in existence, no matter how hard anyone tries to create meaning out of of that pointlessness.
There is still pain. There is still hunger. Loneliness and stagnation are the ultimate, entropic principles of humanity in this state. There is no guarantee the Zoroastrian god, Ahura-Mazda, or his demons even care or pay attention to the people suffering in their various Hells. No one knows what will happen if and when they do manage to leave the library.
In a short space, Dr. Peck has created a disturbing and thought-provoking world that tests the meaning of existence–the meaning of meaning. The ultimate Hell in his story, it would seem, is the dissolution of meaning, or a reality in which there never was any meaning to begin with.