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Ted Chiang - Hell Is the Absence of GodHere's one I missed at the time - my loss, of course, and all the more my enjoyment and amazement of reading this now. Should, for whatever reason, you be in the same boat, then let me strongly suggest you spend half an hour reading Ted Chiang's novelette Hell Is The Absence of God.

Yes, the title is in itself a Christian quote I reckon, and the story setting/world builds from some parts of current Christian world-view/mythology (and I leave it to the reader to decide how far this is actually Christian, or if the story really constitutes a criticism of said religion). This is a world where the existence of God, of Heaven and Hell, and of Angels is evident, visible, tangible, and thus a major fact of life. Angels visit/pass through the world as a side effect of whatever business they are on, and effect miracle healings, life changing events, but also death and destruction.

There are two groups of people - those who are devout, and will thus go to heaven (and upon death it is observable which direction the soul takes!), and those who are no and go to hell, which is characterised by the absence of God. And, like any such system with decision points, influences, and partly deterministic outcomes there are people gaming the system...

In my opinion not about religion (never mind a specific one per se) but about the nature of belief, devotion, and what it does to a society. Also, in my opinion, a grand piece of writing and well deserving the Hugo and Nebula Awards it won!

 

 

 

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