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A Short Stay In Hell

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  2,688 ratings  ·  577 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
108 pages
Published 2011
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Jun 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 versi
Nov 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Angst is not a mere intellectual exercise. Existentialism is not just a philosophical movement. Steven L. Peck's A Short Stay in Hell drives this into the heart of the reader like no other existentialist work.

I've been eyeball-deep in readings on existentialism lately (research for a novel and for my own despair edification), including William Barrett's outstanding Irrational Man: A Study in Existential Philosophy and Sartre's play No Exit, among others. But while I've enjoyed Barrett's study,
Jan 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, aere-perennius
"Finite does not mean much if you can't tell any practical difference between it and infinite."
- Steven L. Peck, A Short Stay in Hell


I have bemoaned for years the sad state of Mormon letters. Do I need to comment here that I don't really consider Ender's Game or Twilight to be literature? There have been a couple close calls. I personally really liked Brady Udall's books (The Lonely Polygamist, The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint, and Letting Loose the Hounds: Stories) and I've heard good things abou
Feb 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: You!
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
Wayne Barrett

Question: If you knew for a fact that not only was there a Hell but that there was a vast array of different types of Hell, how would you feel if you knew the Hell selected for you was a library?

If you are reading this review then it's obvious you are also a book lover so you are probably thinking the answer is a no-brainer.

All righty then! You need to read this novella and then tell me what you think after that.

Of course I didn't get into detail as to how a library could possibly be bad, let
Cindy Newton
Dec 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved this book! It's a short read, but a unique one. It raises so many questions, and it haunts you long after you have finished reading it. It also calls into question the concepts of finite and infinite, and introduces numbers the size of which make my head hurt (not actually that hard to do--I'm an English teacher, so I'm befuddled by fairly small numbers, which these aren't).

It starts with a Mormon guy finding out, as everyone else is, that no matter what your religion was, it
Mar 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mormons, Jorge Luis Borges fans, souls damned to libraries
So, you die and wind up in hell, greeted by a demon who says "Yeah, that religion you chose? Sorry, wrong one!"

This was a very odd little short novel, about a Mormon who dies and finds out that in fact, there is one true religion, and it isn't Mormonism. But don't worry - this is neither an anti-Mormon nor an evangelical work. The fact that the main character is a Mormon is just coincidence - he is joined in hell by many other people who are equally surprised at having checked the wrong box.

Oct 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The food in hell is fantastic. Anything you want. Whenever you want it. They do your laundry and the bar is open 24/7. You can hang out with your friends all day, every day, for eternity. Sh*t, there are even walls and walls of books on the shelves for as far as the eyes can see…and beyond. 410 pages each. 40 lines per page and 80 characters per line. Maybe, hell, ain’t so bad after all.

Nope. Wishful thinking. It’s still hell...Damn. (Literally.)

Steven L. Peck pens an excellent novella about a
Oct 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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. Steven
Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition
It was fascinating at first, and as a reader, a version of hell would definitely be all the books possible, yet none that make any sense. However, all the countless numbers overwhelmed me and became tedious to the point that a short stay in hell was trying to finish this book.
April Cote
What if hell was full of nothing but books? Doesn't sound bad right?
It's hell, and even if it's full of something you love, it can be an unbelievable torture.

This short story was mind blowing and terrifying. I have never thought of, or read of hell in such a way.

Highly recommend!
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
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
Feb 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Kyle Muntz
Feb 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an interesting book. It's sort of like Borges fanfiction, except the Library of Babel is slightly modified into an afterlife (in a universe where Zaroastrianism is the true religion, and there seem to be multiple hells). I feel like Peck is mostly a mediocre writer who stumbled onto a good idea, but this book is pretty fun to read, despite painfully bland characterization and a sort of clumsiness from scene to scene.

By making the library an afterlife I feel like Peck sort of misses part
Leah Polcar
This review refers to the audiobook.

I found A Short Stay in Hell a remarkable novella. The premise is relatively simple: when you die, unless you are a Zoroastrian, you will find yourself on a cheap folding chair facing a demon who decides your not-quite-eternal fate. Our hero ends up assigned to a hell that instantiates Jorge Luis Borges' Library of Babel where he must search for the book(s) that perfectly describes every second of his life. Peck's library is even worse than Borges since I am p
"A Short Stay in Hell" has some elements of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Defending Your Life, and Groundhog Day. But, especially for a Mormon (despite the recent request, I'm still using this term for this book) reader, it is also a fabulous blow-your-paradigm-out-the-water mind shift. I can't stop thinking about it. I have talked about it with nearly everyone I've come in contact since I began it.

Its importance for a Mormon thinker goes both ways: it opens your mind to the idea that, if yo
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
The Behrg
Oct 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-star-reads
A Short Stay in Hell is one of those books you wonder why you haven't heard of prior to actually hearing of it, then you pick out each of your friends who HAVE heard of it and shoot spit-wads at their doors for not telling you about it sooner. This is the type of writing I enjoy -- ultra creative, character-driven, but more than just "fluff." In fact, there's some serious goings on in this going on.

This is the story of a devout Mormon who ends up in Hell, learning that the one true religion was
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. ...more
Mar 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Paul Genesse
May 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Feb 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nathan Shumate
Feb 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Leah Bayer
Holy. Shit.

(more eloquent review to come when I can collect my thoughts on this beauty of a book)
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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 61 May 25, 2015 07:26PM  

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