So this was a little different than what I was expecting. Instead of an anthology of different iterations of hell, this anthology is based off the idea presented in Steven Peck’s excellent novella, “A Short Stay in Hell,” in that people discover — regardless of how they’ve lived their lives or what they’ve believed — that Zoroastrianism is “the one true religion,” then they’re assigned a different iteration of hell.
So I suppose the anthology is what I was expecting?
Yes and no.
First off, there are some fantastic stories in this collection. R.A. Baxter & D.J. Butler come up with some wickedly clever versions of hell. Michaelbrent Collings adds a unique twist with his vision, and Steven Peck’s ending story will really make you think. Others felt like filler or provided little emotional connection, whether from a lack of connecting with the character or a lackluster idea.
One of the things I loved about the novella this anthology is based on is the exploration of the idea of eternity and how utterly unfathomable it is to our finite minds. The stories here that really grab hold of that idea but also bring a new perspective to it are the ones that succeeded, in my mind. However — and here’s the challenge in basing an entire anthology off of a central idea this compartmentalized — after awhile the stories started to blend in with one another. I would have loved to see vastly different explorations of hell, and perhaps basing stories on another story limited the creativity or expansion of ideas a bit.
Still a worthwhile venture, though I’m not sure I would have enjoyed this as much had I not first read the novella it was based on. 3.5 out of 5 stars. And if you haven’t yet read Peck’s “A Short Stay in Hell,” start there!