Edge, Simon. “The Hurtle of Hell”, Eye Books. 2018.
God and a Confused Young Man
Stefano Cartwright loves to have fun and is always looking to do so. During one of his excursions in search of fun, he is almost killed by a wave on a holiday beach. He goes on a journey up a tunnel of light that convinces him that God does exist, and he may need to change his lifestyle if he does not want to burn for eternity.
Stephen Carter had known as a teenager that he was gay and understood that his parents would never accept this. So when he was just sixteen and finished his exams at school, he took all his savings and went to begin a new life in London where he reinvented himself as Stefano Cartwright. He did not consider the effect it might have on his parents and this ended all contact with his family. sister for the five years until she was eighteen.
We meet him living in Hackney, working in a gay bar and in a committed relationship with Adam, with whom he is on holiday at a small volcanic island. Everything seems to be going well for him but then he becomes totally confused as a result of a freak accident. When he is almost killed by a tremendous wave, he goes through a near death other worldly experience that makes him question all of his beliefs and assumptions. He soon finds himself on a journey, through a tunnel, that brings him to a close encounter with a giant blue eye. When Stefano regains consciousness, he is convinced that what he saw was the eye of God and believes that he needs to change his life. This will not only greatly affect him but will also affect everyone he is close to.
The commotion on the beach draws God’s attention and as he focuses on it, he is taken aback when he sees two large green eyes looking back at him. The look that God sees is both of fear and astonishment. When the eyes disappear, God is confused over what he has just seen. In the past, he has watched planet Earth, noting its progress in a vaguely affectionate way but now that he has been seen by someone, his feelings harden. Yet God is both intrigued and bored (what does a god do all day, anyway?), so he decides to find out more Stefano and his life on earth. The story is narrated in alternating chapters through the voices of Stefano, Adam and God. Later a fourth voice comes along (but you will have to read the book to find out who that is). Each of the voices tries to adjust and come to terms with Stefano’s struggle reconciling his gay lifestyle with his new-found belief in the existence of God; a God who he thinks is disapproving and judgmental.
As you might imagine, there is great humor here. We realize that Stephano is not the only character on a journey and we soon see that God becomes as confused as humans. God also questions about his place in the universe and what may exist beyond its boundaries. He often worries about this and then tries to convince himself that he must stop himself creating disasters and catastrophes. We certainly do not often think about God and when we do, I doubt we see him as lonely. The idea that he uses his “telescope” to see what was going on is a very special idea and how can we not love reading about what he sees? God’s thoughts on what he sees are wonderful as are his observations on humans. While we may think of this as a funny novel, we also have to understand that what writer Simon Edge does is provide some very thought provoking and provocative ideas on life and human behavior as well as on the complexities of relationships, belief, religion and spirituality and how we, as human beings tend to exaggerate our significance. Author Edge captures the shift in the church’s attitudes towards gay people and attitudes are not the same as they once were.
The narrative takes us 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 in the news. God realizes that he must spend time learning more about humans. He discovers that they have given him a great many strange powers. He states that humans could never understand their own insignificance. God derives pleasure from learning more about how they think and act during their brief lives. God’s observations are an effective commentary on organized religion and man’s exaggerated sense of his own value.
We see that the real heart of the story here is about our need to be ourselves and understand love and tolerance, forgiveness and redemption.