Wednesday, January 08, 2014

A short review #2

"Hell is the Absence of God" by Ted Chiang  (Stories of Your Life and Others.)

Honestly, if there is a better short story in circulation than Chiang's "Hell is the Absence of God" I am yet to read it. This is one story I return to over and over, simply because it is writing at its most sublime. The work opens with the sentence "This is the story of a man named Neil Fisk, and how he came to love God." We are then told of the death of Neil's wife (Sarah) and his reaction to her passing. Bereft at her loss, Neil is told over and over that he should embrace God and learn to love Him so he (Fisk) can join Sarah in Heaven.

What follows is Neil's journey towards finding love for God and no, it's not at all preachy.

What surprises me most about this work is that it appears to break one of the first rules newbies are taught about writing ie "Thou shalt show and not tell." Well, Chiang appears to have heard that little gem of advice and flicked it out the window. We are constantly being told what happens in this piece, and yet, somehow in the telling we are shown both the absolute glory and abundant cruelty of God.

Every time I read this work I approach the end with apprehension. "Please be different," I tell myself, and yet, despite it remaining the same, I always close the work feeling satisfied.

5 stars out of 5.

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