Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Nature of Hell

I just finished reading Hell by Robert Olen Butler. Well, I finished it a few days ago, but it's stayed in my head, which is usually an indication that the book has something good about it. This one certainly does. It's original, gripping, though-provoking. I'm not sure I'm entirely satisfied by the ending, but that's partly my point: I'm not sure yet. Maybe I will be when I've thought about it some more.

And then there's the setting. Hell. The one thing that strikes me now is that the author's vision of hell and the tortures available there is so much more unsettling, painful and, I suppose, frightening, than anything in the original version of hell that we get in the bible.

This isn't a horror book though - the tortures of hell do involve the usual sulphurous rains and physical pains, but here it's more about the constant frustrations of hopes dashed, yearnings unfulfillled, humiliations on a very human level and every after-life experience leaving you unsatisfied.

It made me wonder why god (he's supposed to have written the bible, isn't he?) never came up with anything so creative and genuinely hell-ish. Come to think of it, why didn't his tortures involve anything more modern than flames, hot sand and ice? Shouldn't he have access to technology that would make everything so much worse than that?

Maybe he does, but he's managed to hide it all from the devil.

Then again, technology is often said to be 'the work of the devil', so why isn't he using it in hell? Or if he is, why didn't it get a mention in the bible?

I think this means I've concluded that Robert Olen Butler's book is a better bible than the bible. It's definitely much shorter.

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