A short stay in hell - Would you like to ponder the nature of infinity?

mindlessobserver

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Just got done reading "a short stay in hell" by Steven Peck. The premise is simple. A good Mormon man dies and discovers that Zoroastrianism was the one true religion all along. But Ahura Mazda is an understanding God and views Hell as a learning experience. So the main charachter is sent to a vast library with other damned souls and tasked with finding the book of his earthly life.

I stumbled on this one quite by accident. It not very large. Took me about 3 hours to read and cost 2.99 on Amazon Kindle. But just...wow. I cannot stress enough how good this book is. It's an existential horror that meditates on the enormity of infinity and just what it means for our insignificant human selves to truly confront it.

It's good. You should read it.
 

mindlessobserver

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You might find this interview with the author interesting.
Oh good. I need something to listen too since I cant sleep now.

Sounds almost like a Borges premise. Though I've never gotten around to reading Borges either so I'm only going off things I've heard about his stories.
Borges is specifically referenced.
 

MarvinTheParanoidAndroid

This will all end in tears, I just know it.
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Sounds a lot like that Twilight Zone episode where the crook goes to Hell but they pull the wool over his eyes and make him believe he's actually in Heaven.
 

ScamL Likely

IT'S! NOT! EVEN! HOT! OUT! SIDE~!
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Borges is specifically referenced.
Makes sense that he would be, I guess. If you're writing something as an homage to another author there's always the vague sense that you should directly mention them so as to not come off like a thief. Though part of that impulse comes from knowing that we are all thieves on some level.

Also looking at the Amazon page I noticed that the used copies of it are more expensive than new ones. That always gets me when I see allegedly used copies of my own scribbles going for more than new ones.
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mindlessobserver

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Would you say the library is comparable to the aleph?
The Library takes Borges premise and works out its implications. I dont want to go too in depth with it as it would spoil the story. Suffice to say it's the sort of understated horror you cant really describe. At no point are there lies or dissembling. It is what it is. The nightmare (and why I am still awake) comes in the understanding of what it is.
 
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BlueSpark

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Makes sense that he would be, I guess. If you're writing something as an homage to another author there's always the vague sense that you should directly mention them so as to not come off like a thief. Though part of that impulse comes from knowing that we are all thieves on some level.

Also looking at the Amazon page I noticed that the used copies of it are more expensive than new ones. That always gets me when I see allegedly used copies of my own scribbles going for more than new ones.
But does the new copy cost a stupid amount to deliver?
That's a common scam on Amazon: sellers will list a product very cheap so that their listing ends up at the top when ranked by price, but they'll make up the difference by charging an unnecessary amount in postage.
 

ScamL Likely

IT'S! NOT! EVEN! HOT! OUT! SIDE~!
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But does the new copy cost a stupid amount to deliver?
That's a common scam on Amazon: sellers will list a product very cheap so that their listing ends up at the top when ranked by price, but they'll make up the difference by charging an unnecessary amount in postage.
It probably depends on where it's being shipped to, but I've never had that issue myself.
 

Underestimated Nutria

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I just finished it.

I liked it, but I just feel that it could've been so much more. There are so many unanswered questions, unexplored ideas, etc. Why is there a rule against damaging books, why are they asked not to hurt or kill themselves unnecessarily, for instance? At the beginning, there was a redheaded girl who he met after returning from his run, but he said that he didn't remember her from before. Is there something wrong with the continuity here?

It started off really well; when the narrator said that there was an entire book on the history of his life as told by his digestive system and the story of all the meals that had passed through it, etc. I was really excited to keep reading; but when it was just the Library of Babel after all, i.e. a million monkeys at a million keyboards etc., I kinda lost interest in the premise.

And what of the other hells?

Edit: I just coincidentally came across this: https://www.gwern.net/Justifications

Whatcha think?
 
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mindlessobserver

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I just finished it.

I liked it, but I just feel that it could've been so much more. There are so many unanswered questions, unexplored ideas, etc. Why is there a rule against damaging books, why are they asked not to hurt or kill themselves unnecessarily, for instance? At the beginning, there was a redheaded girl who he met after returning from his run, but he said that he didn't remember her from before. Is there something wrong with the continuity here?

It started off really well; when the narrator said that there was an entire book on the history of his life as told by his digestive system and the story of all the meals that had passed through it, etc. I was really excited to keep reading; but when it was just the Library of Babel after all, i.e. a million monkeys at a million keyboards etc., I kinda lost interest in the premise.

And what of the other hells?

Edit: I just coincidentally came across this: https://www.gwern.net/Justifications

Whatcha think?
I think alot of this is the fact that the book was a true amateur effort. It was a self published on the internet amateur project before an actual publisher saw it and decided it needed to be put to paper. The bits of random story lines could be written off as the narrator having long forgotten them himself. The story we are reading is a book he has found after hundreds of billions of years (the universe is only 13 billion years old). I would honestly like to see someone try and make this into a movie. I have a feeling the visual medium can help convey more, like the part with the direites. One thing to read about getting murdered ever morning for years. Another to see it happen. It would also allow for more "fleshing out" of the story.
 
I liked the book but, like some others here, I felt a little disappointed about it being so sparse. It being short is in some ways appropriate, but it almost made me anxious reading it about how he was going to make his point in that short of a space. It's quite a success in that regard, that he made such a good novella.

I do feel like I didn't, for some reason, get the psychological horror aspect, except maybe from Chapter 3 on. That chapter hits like a sack of bricks. But, a lot of that is also driven more by the intense imagery, mind-screwy manipulation of the library's rules, and the love plots. It wasn't so much me being driven to fear by the concept of infinity than it was empathy for Soren. Still, it moved me quite a bit and left me in a daze for a while, though my head was in a negative fog anyways, so that may have helped it along.

Ah, well, it was still very well worth the time and money, and is an admirable work to be made by an amateur. If the author made another attempt at the idea (like a standalone sequel), I think he'd maybe be best off trying to really play to the idea of tedium and the people slowly breaking down. I felt like they kind of lasted too long and too intact, and the book didn't give a great sense of scale in its writing. But it was still well done.

As a disclaimer, the book's depiction of Zoroastrianism has fuck-all to do with the real religion. The Zoroastrian afterlife IS eternal Heaven or Hell (not temporary Hell, which is actually a Mormon concept), and it has some rather colorful ideas (namely the Chinvat Bridge) that make no appearance. It's not "what if Mormon in Zoroastrian afterlife" like I thought it would be, but "what if Mormon in Library of Babel ironic Hell."

Good job, OP.
 
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I think alot of this is the fact that the book was a true amateur effort. It was a self published on the internet amateur project before an actual publisher saw it and decided it needed to be put to paper. The bits of random story lines could be written off as the narrator having long forgotten them himself. The story we are reading is a book he has found after hundreds of billions of years (the universe is only 13 billion years old). I would honestly like to see someone try and make this into a movie. I have a feeling the visual medium can help convey more, like the part with the direites. One thing to read about getting murdered ever morning for years. Another to see it happen. It would also allow for more "fleshing out" of the story.
I had this exact thought myself. The question is how you can visually convey the extreme expanses of time.
 

mindlessobserver

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I had this exact thought myself. The question is how you can visually convey the extreme expanses of time.
In my head a way they could do it is to show the falling portion. Where they put a little timer at the bottom counting the days and then over a 5 minute period start slowly speeding it up until it reaches a ludicrous fast foreword then abruptly end it with him hitting a bannister as a jump scare to bring time back to normal speed. They could also do it with the murder portion.

Really this potential movie is just begging for a good director to play with the fast foreword feature.
 
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