Review of “Hell Is the Absence of God” (2001)


Ted Chiang (writer).

Read in 2018.

Three lives intersect in a modern world where Abrahamic religion is provably correct. Angels, including fallen angels, sometimes visit human society, and the living sometimes see Hell.

Chiang accurately conveys the extreme callousness of Abraham’s god as depicted in The Bible (ca. 110 CE). For example, 2 Kings 19:35 has 185 000 people suddenly killed by an angel. Mosaic law, however, is curiously pared down to Deuteronomy 10:12, the command to ”fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul”. The consequences are appropriately horrific and the climax is, unexpectedly, a fine action sequence that could have come from Larry Niven rather than an ironic biblical fantasy.

References here: “Ecclesiastes” (ca. 400–180 BCE).

text fiction