The Hurtle of Hell, by Simon Edge, opens with a near drowning during which the protagonist, Stefano Cartwright, has an out of body experience. He views himself from above surrounded by a concerned crowd as a stranger attempts to give him the kiss of life. Stefano then travels along a tunnel of light before briefly encountering a being he believes to be God. Prior to this Stefano would have regarded himself as an atheist having rejected Christian beliefs and teachings as a teenager. Now he faces a personal crisis, fearing his current lifestyle will result in an eternity condemned to hell. Stefano’s long term boyfriend, Adam, cannot understand what has happened. A gulf opens between them.
Meanwhile God is growing bored with his lonely life at the centre of the universe. He travels to its outer edges and contemplates what may lie beyond. He is perturbed to have been glimpsed while looking through the seeing tube that enables him to zoom in on features that grab his interest by a hominid from
“the third rock from a middle-sized star in a spiral galaxy in a part of his universe that he technically classified as ‘over there'”
God’s interest is piqued. He has never before been seen. He seeks out the hominid from time to time casually observing its strange habits and interactions with little understanding.
Stefano cannot shake his fears. Everywhere he looks he sees messages that he believes could be spiritual warnings meant for him. When Adam tries to help the situation worsens.
The narrative takes the reader back to Stefano’s childhood and the expectations of his parents. As he was coming to accept that he was gay, the AIDs epidemic was garnering media attention. Finding his home life intolerable Stefano moved to London, effectively reinventing himself and setting aside the family he left.
Following an unfortunate accident with his seeing tube, God must spend time learning more about these hominids. He discovers that they have attributed a great many strange powers to him which he regards with incredulity.
“Hominids could never have a realistic grasp of how insignificant they were, of the different scales on which they and the creator existed”
Nevertheless God makes the most of his new experiences, even growing fond of some who he observes. Their perspectives of the god they have invented and the universe in which they exist may be incompatible with practical reality but God derives pleasure from learning more about how they think and act during their brief lives.
The structure of the story flows with ease through the varying voices, providing insights into the prejudices, concerns and selfishness that each of the characters must face. The character of God adds much humour, his observations an effective commentary on organised religion and man’s exaggerated sense of his own value. It is both amusing and sobering to reflect on.
This is a light read but provokes sufficient questioning to maintain interest. An entertaining addition to my summer list.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Lightning Books.