LDS Fiction

Expanded Thoughts on “A Short Stay in Hell”

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I first read A Short Stay in Hell by Steven L. Peck a couple of years ago, and included it in a post about horror books by local Utah authors. Since then, I’ve gotten to know Dr. Peck, running into him at various fan and writing conventions here in Utah. (Alas, I never knew him while I was an actual BYU student studying geology and biology). I had the opportunity to listen to the audiobook version of his story more recently, and wanted to expand my thoughts on this fantastic gem.

A Short Stay in Hell is about a faithful Mormon man who ends up in Zoroastrian Hell when he dies. Having followed the “wrong religion” all of his life, he is condemned to a giant library (based on the Library of Babel) where he and his fellow deceased must each find the book containing their life story in order to escape.

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.

A Short Stay in Hell is available…

On Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Short-Stay-Hell-Steven-Peck-ebook/dp/B007LQ81HK/

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/short-stay-in-hell-steven-l-peck/1017543045

And just about anywhere else books, both electronic and physical, can be found.

Review: Defenders of the Covenant

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I’ve read a couple of Angie Lofthouse’s short story collections and decided it was time I dive into her novel.

Defenders of the Covenant is about four teenagers who leave the security of their underground colony and unexpectedly find themselves battling to free humanity from the grip of pig-like alien invaders called Nebkiriven.

I love Angie’s creativity.  She weaves LDS characters, and their religious habits of praying and seeking spiritual guidance, into a story about rebelling against a hostile alien takeover. I’ve never read anything like this. And it is just. So. Cool!

The alien technology was intriguing. I loved the details about the overskins the Nebkiriven use to control their human slaves, from the artificial superhuman abilities the technology provides to the very freaky fact that it shaves off all the hair on a person’s body immediately when it is installed. The overskin technology added tension to the story that heightened the suspense and made me squirm–just a little. I really enjoyed this particular element.

Angie’s post-apocalyptic world had enough peril to keep me turning the pages, yet was gentle enough to agree with a PG audience. Her vision of the future is ultimately one filled with wonder, hope, and faith.

I recommend this to readers of general LDS fiction, to readers of science fiction, and to readers from the realm of YA looking for something fun and unique.

You can find Defenders of the Covenant on Amazon in paperback:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1599928485

And for Kindle:
http://www.amazon.com/Defenders-Covenant-Angie-Lofthouse-ebook/dp/B007MRZX8S

Review: Spirits Bright, Ripped and Other Adventures

Looking for Christmas-themed science fiction? Angie Lofthouse has you covered!

Angie is an awesome author, mom, and guitar-player who likes ancient American history and fighter jets. I know her well as we’ve shared table space selling our books together at many conventions in the past year. She is best known for writing the Defenders of the Covenant LDS science fiction series. Today, I’m excited to plug two of Angie’s short story collections: Spirits Bright, and Ripped and Other Adventures.

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Spirits Bright contains four original shorts. “Spirits Bright” is about a woman who is invited to an LDS ward Christmas party after her virtual reality holiday plans are disrupted. “Milly’s Gift” is set in Angie’s “Renegade” universe, in which a young woman recovering from her life as an alien captive is determined to give her best friend the perfect Christmas gift. “Living Water” follows the adventures of an anthropologist from Earth who is observing the sacred off-world celebrations related to the birth of the Christ child. “Chosen Vessel” is a retelling of 3rd Nephi events leading up to signs of the Savior’s birth, from the point of view of a young family living in the ancient Americas, and a star ship captain who finds his vessel inexplicably orbiting the planet where the Savior of all the Creator’s children is about to be born.

These stories all take a unique and delightful speculative twist on LDS concepts. They also share themes of getting back in touch with our humanity, healing, and drawing closer to our families and those we love. My favorite story in this collection is “Milly’s Gift.” The characters cling to hope of a bright future while working to rebuilt their devastated world. I fell in love with the characters (and the fact there was a functional LDS Family Search Center that played prominently into the story–so cool!), and became intrigued about other stories Angie has set in this particular sphere. This is a delightful LDS sci-fi collection, perfect for the holiday season.

Get the Spirits Bright collection here on Amazon!

 

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Ripped and Other Adventures includes ten science fiction and fantasy short stories: “Ripped,” “Blessing Stone,” “Casualties of War,” “Brierly’s Lilies,” “Highway Songs,” “Fidelity,” “Sacred Places,” “Soul Singer,” “Among the Silent Stars,” and “Sophie and the Night Eagle.” The stories are a mix of science fiction and fantasy, some with an LDS bent and others without. I enjoyed so many of these it was difficult to choose just one favorite.

“Ripped” had a poignant way of playing with relationships in a sphere where time as well as space have become a bit distorted. “Casualties of War” was a heart-wrenching character-oriented story that I absolutely loved (If I had to choose, this would be my favorite). “Brierly’s Lilies,” is a wonderfully suspenseful and creative adventure that sticks out in my mind the most. “Sacred Places” had interesting secondary characters and a strained husband-wife relationship that made the story poignant. Manon was a wonderfully sympathetic character to root for in “Among the Silent Stars.” “Fidelity,” “Soul Singer,” and “Sophie” were action-packed. There’s so much to like here!

Angie has a beautiful way of turning emotions with her descriptions. Her characters are dynamic and wonderfully sympathetic, which makes it easy to get sucked into the adventures and trouble these characters encounter. The cultures and environments of the characters are creative, and this collection was an absolute delight to read.

Ripped and Other Adventures is currently only available in paperback. Check it out here!

Sarah E. Seeley is a fantasy and horror author, and an affiliate member of the Horror Writers Association. She has a bachelor’s degree in geology and loves exploring the science of human origins.

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