401: A Short Stay in Hell with Steven L. Peck

a short stay in hellAs the 5th feature of our Mormon Stories Book Club series, we feature Steven Peck and his book A Short Stay in Hell, accompanied by the following readers:  Heather Olson Beal, Matt Nokleby, and Amanda Nokleby.  Please click on the link to purchase your book through Amazon.  A small amount of the proceeds go to help support Mormon Stories.


Title: A Short Stay in Hell
Author: Steven Peck
Publisher: Strange Violin Editions
Genre: Fiction
Year: 2012
Pages: 108
Binding: Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle
ISBN-13: 978-0983748427
Price: $21.95 (hardcover), $9.56 (paperback), $2.99 (Kindle)

Support Mormon Stories by purchasing A Short Stay in Hell through this link.

Book Description from www.amazon.com:

An ordinary family man, geologist, and Mormon, Soren Johansson has always believed he’ll be reunited with his loved ones 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 his life. In this haunting existential novella, author, philosopher, and ecologist Steven L. Peck explores a subversive vision of eternity, taking the reader on a journey through the afterlife of a world where everything everyone believed in turns out to be wrong.

Book Club Resources:

Click here  to listen to the Mormon Stories Podcast with author Steven Peck and readers Heather Olson Beal, Matt Nokleby, and Amanda Nokleby.

Reviews of A Short Stay in Hell






Other resources/writings by and about Peck



Scholar of Moab:  https://www.scholarofmoab.com/author-bio.html

The Quickend Chronicles: The Rifts of Rime:  https://bycommonconsent.com/2012/06/14/review-steven-l-peck-the-quickend-chronicles-the-rifts-of-rime/


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  1. I found this really interesting, and it made me go out and get the book for my Kindle, so thanks!

    May I make one small suggestion? Please edit out the parts where you scramble for questions to ask the guest…it’s kind of uncomfortable to listen to “do you have any questions? No, I’m good. Do you? No, I guess that’s all I had for him!” etc. :-) Just skip to the parts where you DO have something to ask or comment. Otherwise, we just feel bad for the guest.

  2. Pingback: This Week in Mormon Literature, February 24, 2013 | Dawning of a Brighter Day

  3. Sharman Hunter Wilson

    It’s fortunate that this book is short, because I couldn’t have taken much more of this hell! Not that it wasn’t a good book. it was quite riveting, as a matter of fact. I’m glad I read it, if just for the appreciation it gave me of the good life I have. It was pretty disturbing thinking about the cruel God who could have designed such an awful eternity–I like my God a whole lot better. Contemplating such loneliness, boredom, and meaninglessness is so foreign to my Mormon optimism, and since the author is also Mormon, I can see how he would shrink from such a place. The kicker is that his character is a Mormon who ends up in this hell!

  4. I’m about a month late, so I don’t know that Steven Peck will see my comment. But just in case, here are some questions that I would have asked in the interview (WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD):

    (1) The book begins with Soren’s declaration of love for a woman he met in the afterlife and knew for only a short period of time. Soren’s declaration can be seen as a smack in the face of Mormon romanticism, which celebrates the idea that the love shared between two mortals can transcend death. Given that Soren himself was a married Mormon during his earthly existence, this aspect of his narrative is particularly conspicuous. What messages, if any, were you trying to convey about romantic relationships in general and/or about Mormonism’s view of eternal love in particular?

    (2) While reading the book, I half expected that one of the characters would someday pick a book at random and submit it as his/her life story. I thought the character might defend the choice by claiming that any book is as good as another, that just as in life, it’s up to the individual to imbue with meaning whatever one encounters. What do you think would have happened to a person in Soren’s Hell who tried such a thing?

    (3) Soren says in the prologue that he is “incapable of forgetting even the smallest detail” of his post-mortal existence. Then, while conversing with Rachel in chapter three, Soren incorrectly identifies Cassandra as an anthropologist. Rachel reminds him that Cassandra is “the Marxist economist.” What should readers make of this? Did Soren feign forgetfulness as a kind of conversational crutch, the way one might vacuously say “right, right” while listening to someone else talk? Was he simply distracted by his attraction to Rachel? Or did Soren genuinely forget something about Cassandra? In short, what insight are we to glean from Soren’s apparent lapse of memory?

    (4) To what extent is Soren’s Hell meant to serve as a metaphor for earthly existence, rather than as a vehicle for exploring more abstract theoretical notions (such as what it might be like to live eternally)? Put another way, do you regard your novel more as a commentary on this life and how we actually live it, or as a venture into pure speculative philosophy? To which end is the book more heavily geared, or is it equal between them? (For the record, I think you achieve both ends quite brilliantly, which is exactly why I want to know what kind of mindset or motive you had in writing it.)

  5. This was such a thought provoking book. I have now listened to it twice! I also picked it for my upcoming book club. I love how short the book is as well. Highly recommend this one!

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