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A Short Stay in Hell

4.15 of 5 stars 4.15  ·  rating details  ·  898 ratings  ·  244 reviews
An ordinary family man, geologist, and Mormon, Soren Johansson has always believed he’ll be reunited with his loved ones after death in an eternal hereafter. Then, he dies. Soren wakes to find himself cast by a God he has never heard of into a Hell whose dimensions he can barely grasp: a vast library he can only escape from by finding the book that contains the story of hi ...more
Paperback, 104 pages
Published March 23rd 2012 by Strange Violin Editions (first published January 1st 2011)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,590)
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i wasn't sure i was going to like this one. the concept is ripped from a borges story about a library containing an infinite number of books; every permutation of every possible arrangement of letters; shelves and shelves of endless volumes, many of which are pure gibberish.

and in this book, this is one of many possible hells.

it seems zoroastrianism was the one true religion. oops. sorry all you suckers and mormons and buddhists - you are all going to hell. but hell is not forever, all you need
Dan Schwent
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 from a crabby teacher once the "free book" excitement wore off.
Oct 14, 2012 Kris rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Kris by: Jacob
Shelves: fiction, fantasy
Peck uses the Borges story "The Library of Babel" as inspiration for his own take on a version of Hell in this thought-provoking novella.

As the story opens, Soren Johansson finds himself dressed in a robe, sitting on a metal folding chair with a view of men and women who are screaming while swimming in a lake of fire. He soon learns from Xandern, the 8-foot tall demon who welcomes him, that he has died, that Zoroastrianism is the one true religion, and that he is being sent to a specific versio
Mar 15, 2012 Jacob rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: You!
Shelves: 2012, short-fiction, i-own
March 2012

Hell is a vast, immeasurable, nearly infinite library--and you can only check out one book.

Bad news for most of the human race: there is only one true religion, and it's Zoroastrianism. The good news: Ahura Mazda is a merciful god, and nonbelievers are not condemned to hell for all eternity. But they will be there for a very, very long time. For faithful Mormon Soren Johanssen, hell manifests as a library of nearly infinite proportions--a library, inspired by the story "The Library of
When I first read the description of this brief book I was fascinated by the premise but also had some questions. Why would the description emphasize that the protagonist is a "faithful Mormon". The letter from Strange Violin Editions that came with this advance copy only piqued my curiosity with its stated mission being to release writings by "Mormons, former Mormons, and people interested in Mormonism who seek thought-provoking, intelligently written, Mormonism-related books that strive to att ...more
Libbie Hawker (L.M. Ironside)
An imaginative, weird, and often funny look at what happens when one man dies and finds out the true religion was Zoroastrianism, and he's bound for a rehabilitative Hell. Don't worry; he only has to stay for a little while, until he's been brought around. Unfortunately God and his/her demons reckon time differently from the way humans do, and his short stay in Hell stretches for a virtual eternity while he searches for the one book containing the story of his life among more books than there ar ...more
Gloria Mundi
Imagine, you have just died. I know, kinda crappy, right? But! At least all your earthly suffering is over. Whatever caused your death is no longer troubling you and you are restored to the prime of your youth and deposited into a vast, almost infinite library filled with every book that could ever be written and where you do not age, you have perfect memory and are able to recall every word you have ever read and every event that has ever happened to you, your every injury and even death are he ...more
This is a book that definitely stays with you after you finish reading it. I closed it last night and this morning it was still haunting me, poking me in the side for me to think about it just a bit more.
It’s not an easy one to classify. It’s fiction, sure, but there’s a bit of satire, a bit of philosophy, a bit of horror, a bit of everything, really. The writing is sparse and careful, setting the mood as well as the descriptions do. For me, it was a pretty claustrophobic read. Since the book ta
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this review, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

Earlier this year I had the chance to review Therese Doucet's delightful if not flawed lapsed-Mormon memoir A Lost Argument, which I thoroughly enjoyed despite its problems; so I was excited to learn that Doucet had actually started a new small press based on her experiences, and devoted to putting out ot
This is a rather disturbing, thought-provoking novella. Read it in a single sitting. One of the most horrific hells I've ever pondered. I'm sure it will be in my brain until the day I die. Some parts reminded me of Peter Beagle's A Fine and Private Place, others of Orson Scott Card's short story "A Thousand Deaths." A good read, but don't expect a happy ending. It's about hell after all.

Available very inexpensively as a Kindle book.

Update: It's been nearly a year since I read this and I still fi
It seems I love any story that has a library as the setting, even if the library is hell. Very well written and thought-provoking, I especially liked the author's ideas on how homogeneity and monotony would affect us. I am not normally a fan of novella's but this is well worth the read.
Paul Genesse
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
A terrifically thought-provoking novella about a Hell based off Borges' "Library of Babel". It's a philosophical examination of infinity and eternity, of the human capacity to adapt, and of religion and tolerance. Smart, funny, and surprisingly good at shrinking mind-boggling concepts into a comprehensible framework. Still, a library that goes on for lightyears in every direction that's mostly full of gibberish... a truly terrifying thought if ever there was one.

Definitely worth your time - I s
Jeff Raymond
It's books like this that make me absolutely love Goodreads. I received this as an advance copy after finding the book's premise to be really fascinating. I didn't expect to love it as much as I did, and there's no way I would have ever even known the book existed without Goodreads, so yeah.

The premise is very simple - Hell is different for different people, there's only one true religion (and you probably don't subscribe to it), and the hero of our story, Soren, is in Hell and has been sent to
What an eye-opener this book is. Today, I appreciate the birds singing, the cockroaches crawling, the flies flying more than ever; I just finished “A Short Stay in Hell”.

This was a concept of hell that I’ve never thought about before and that’s what makes this book so good. It makes you think about religion in a whole different light.

Back a few months ago I read a review of this and was excited to try it. I had to order it at Barnes & Noble, it wasn't on the shelf. I am so glad I did. Steve
To say this was a haunting read would be a gross understatement. It gave me several nights of tossing and turning as I tried to wrap my head around his vision of eternity that includes eons in an enormously vast library full of unreadable books. The monotony, the boredom, the impossibility of the quest to find one's life story shelved somewhere in the vast stacks, combined to create a real horror story.

It also made me ponder the questions raised in the book, "what would it be like to love the s
Isaac Bourgeois
Highly recommend. Read it in a day. Fascinating approach to the concept. I should write more but it's late. I'll just include a quote here to whet your appetite: “There is a despair that goes deeper than existence; it runs to the marrow of consciousness, to the seat of the soul. Could I keep living like this forever? How could I continue existing in this Hell? And yet there was no choice. Existence goes on and on here. Finite does not mean much if you can’t tell any practical difference between ...more
Lisa Butterworth
This is a fast read, but count on it dwelling in your mind for a while as you can't help but contemplate what eternity really means, and your brain tries to comprehend things so large and long that it literally boggles. Plus a great story, sympathetic character development, and fascinating hi-jinks ensue.
Nathan Shumate
This eschatological novella gives an unblinking look at what is often the unspoken worst part of the traditional idea of damnation: its duration. Highly recommended.
Sonja Arlow
3 stars or 4 stars I am on the fence

What a disturbingly unusual, surprisingly creepy and thought provoking novella. In a broad sense it touches on a range of religious beliefs, existentialism and philosophy and there is even some humor to be found in places.

What if you, a good Catholic/Christian/Muslim/Jewish believer (pick your choice) dies and ends up in hell anyway? You really believed that your religion was the right one, right? And this is highly unfair, right? And to make maters worse, He
A Short Stay in Hell is wonderful! It tells the story of a devout Mormon man, Soren, who dies and ends up in Hell. However, Hell is nothing like he imagined. It is not fire and brimstone and eternal suffering. There are many different Hells but the one chosen for him is based of the Borges short story, Library of Babel. The library consists of every book that has ever been written and every book that ever could be written (i.e. there's a book of all a's, a book of all b's, a book of all question ...more
Soren Narnia
A highly imaginative tale of one man's journey through a darkly funny but savage vision of hell. The book's modest length belies the richness of its many ideas and its wealth of shifting situations, and the narrator's tone--light at first, but then possessed by an ever more grim undercurrent--keeps the story quite engaging. A great book to share with someone so you can have a truly engaging discussion about what you've just read!
Mar 31, 2012 Skarpetta rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Skarpetta by: won copy
Shelves: books-won
I received this book as a free giveaway. A thought provoking and entertaining book, keeping the reader unable to put it down. Read the book in one sitting, took about 1 1/2 hours to finish it. Makes the reader think about what they feel is the definition of religion, Hell, Heaven, and the afterlife.
Fabulous, fun and thought provoking. The story line is reminiscent of Larry Niven's "Inferno", and Robert Heinlein's "Job: A Comedy of Justice".

Mormon man discovers that 'the one true church/faith' was Zoroastrianism and that those who weren't believers spent an indefinite, but not infinite, time in a hell suited to their particular life and interests. Thus the narrator/protagonist finds himself in a hell that is based on Jorge Luis Borges' "The Library of Babel" along with other bookish people
Kayla Rae
Despite the great cover art and interesting blurb, I probably would have never read this novella if I had not won it. Eleven-ninety-five, I would think, is way too much to pay for a book that is just over a hundred pages long. That being said, I am absolutely thankful that this book came into my possession.
I usually tend to avoid books that use the word “haunting” in their back-cover blurbs, because, usually, they are not; its just the writer trying to make their work sound so much bigger and g
I received this book in a giveaway and I was a bit embarassed, when arrived, because I wondered "What if I don't like it?!". Well, at the end of the book I was very happy, because the book is beautiful and it was very much worth reading!
In this book there is everything and everything in 100 slender pages. It is difficult to talk about it so soon (I finished the book yesterday), because it is so full that leaves you somewhat "drunk".
It starts with words of despair, but after a few pages there is
Michaelbrent Collings

This was marvelous take on the age-old question of what happens to us when we die. Peck has created a unique vision of well-developed people, societies, even entire cultures, that all serve to illustrate one of the most ingenious and creative versions of Hell that I have read.
I really enjoyed this book. Okay, partly because I know the author and have many of the same interests. The first chapter was weaker than the others because of a bit of didacticism, but keep reading because it keeps getting better the whole way through. The universe he builds is a lot of fun to imagine. He states that it's the universe of the Jorge Luis Borges story about the library, but he puts so much of his own spin on it that to me it only seems Borges provided the skeleton. The author fles ...more
This is not a book to read right before bed.

what happens when a good Mormon boy dies and wakes up in a Zoroasteren hell? Basically, this book. Minus one star because I found all the exposition about Mormon theology to tedious (but then, I'm a quasi-active Mormon, so take that as you will).

Over all, this is a short book packed to the gills with charm and horror. I had nightmares for two days after reading it--and I really don't remember the last book that gave me nightmares. The more I think ab
This short book kept me awake last night. It dealt with my greatest fear; that of an everlasting afterlife wherever it may be. The title, a Short Stay in Hell, refers to the fact that our tragic hero has only been there for a mere 7 billion years, which would hardly show up on a percentage bar of forever. I can't understand how the majority of races, nationalities, religions, eras of history, all believe eternal life is a desirable thing. I will be good to my fellow man without the need for a ca ...more
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I Did The Math To See How Long He's Been In Hell and How Long He Has To Go. 15 32 May 25, 2015 07:26PM  
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“It seemed funny that one day I would go to bed in her arms and the next not feel anything, like a switch had gone off. But no, that wasn’t honest either. This had been building for a long time. Our silences were getting longer. Our arguments more frequent. How do you stay with someone when there are no dreams to build? No purpose to accomplish? No meaning? No meaning —that was the monster that drove us away from one another in the end. Always.” 41 likes
“The days passed in a dream. I pictured our reunion again and again, played it out in my mind over and over until I’d almost worn a groove in my thoughts, so deep that it seemed the only thing I could think of was our reunion. Anticipation is a gift. Perhaps there is none greater. Anticipation is born of hope. Indeed it is hope’s finest expression. In hope’s loss, however, is the greatest despair.” 39 likes
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