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Disclaimer: This is one of the few adult-oriented stories I review, so a word of caution for anyone looking to seek it out. I will omit these moments, but I may end up talking about some violent moments. Thank you.
The afterlife in an interesting concept depending on how you view it. A place where the dead rest for eternity. Imagine meeting those famous historical figures. Having Martin Luther King, Jr chatting with Elijah Cummings, or Thomas Edison arguing with Nikola Tesla about who really invented the concept of electric power. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln meeting with later presidents such as H.W. Bush and John F. Kennedy.
So many historical figures from all periods of time coming together. Not like they have anything better to do. Hell could also be the same, only for those whose legacies aren’t as clean. So what would happen if Gilgamesh met with Robert Howard and H.P. Lovecraft and rode in a Land Rover car? This story explains all of that.
Today’s Novella is “Gilgamesh In The Outback,” by Robert Silverberg, as featured in Unreal Magazine. You can find it here. This is a very grand tale of fallen legends surviving the outbacks of hell, and a potential conflict that could bring two ancient friends back for one final bout. Let’s see what’s in store.
Hell has strange bedfellows
Gilgamesh has lived a long time in hell, meeting people from numerous eras long past his. He refuses to adapt to his old, primal ways, despite knowing the common language of English, the Uruk king clings to his bow as a memory of who he once was. Now, he is brought into a conflict and it’s up to two famous authors to help him weave his new tale.
This is an awesome, yet thought-provoking tale that really gives an idea as to what the afterlife could be like. I’m sure if I ever go to heaven, I would not only see my family again, I would see all sorts of historical figures and celebrities I can have plenty of conversations with. Assuming heaven exists, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
The character’s personality shines through the entire thing. In addition to Gilgamesh being the main hero, we also have Robert E. Howard (Author of the Sword and Sorcery fantasy, Conan the Barbarian, later adapted into an iconic Arnold Schwarzenegger film) and H.P. Lovecraft (Creator of the Cthulhu Mythos, which spawned many stories in the supernatural horror genre). Despite being generations apart, the two act as if they had been friends for decades. This kind of interaction is what makes these types of afterlife tales so fun is that such a thing could be possible. Imagine Shaka Zulu meeting Nelson Mandela and having a conversation. The possibilities are endless. And the mere thought of Mr. Howard believing Gilgamesh was Conan himself, a character of his own creation, is hilarious. Perhaps that could have been where he got the idea from, but I can’t say for sure.
One of the more notable aspects of this story is that otherwise good people exist in hell. Ghandi was one of them, and another important character, Doctor Schweitzer, a germaan doctor who stayed in Africa to help those in need, is also present. This implies that only one afterlife exists, and what we call hell is neither good nor bad. Of course H.P. Lovecraft has been criticized for his history of racism and Ghandi as well, who spoke ill of Africans. But that alone does not make someone evil enough to go to hell. Commentary is different from actually causing harm, which I doubt either people have done. Otherwise, who would end up in heaven in this case if we were solely judged by our wrongs rather than the good we made upon the world, which is what truly matters.
Such a concept is intriguing and makes for an interesting twist on the whole “heaven and hell” concept. What if only hell existed? What if heaven wasn’t real? What if there was just “the afterlife.” Naturally, we’ll never find out until we truly pass on, but it does provide some thought. I’m not saying you can’t believe in heaven and I doubt the author is either, but it does provide some discussion.
As far as the story itself, I loved it all the way through. I wanted to see more in this world and feel that so much could be made here. Of course, using so many historical figures would be a legal nightmare to publish, even if many would be considered “public domain” but it would make for a fantastic universe as a whole. The writing is brilliant and the character development is spot on. I also admire how Mr. Howard in the story tries to fight off his own desire for Gilgamesh, as far as denying that he might be gay himself. The story has shown thoughts and mannerisms rarely change, so it’s likely Howard could still harbor some homophobic mentality, but to see him fight that to such an extent is a possibility in such a world where anyone can enter upon death.
My one gripe was how the story ended. I won’t give away too much detail, but it does kind of end a bit too abrupt for the setting. It’s a battle that ends rather quickly and while the situation was fine, it could have gone on much longer. It was like that one Spongebob episode where Spongebob and Patrick fought in a ring at the request of Mr. Krabs and Plankton, only to realize the two cared for each other and that was that. Funny episode, but it felt weird to end off such a hyped battle like this.
Otherwise, this was a grand tale that will no doubt be one of my favorite novellas for a while. It has such a humongous world, a lovable cast, gripping storyline, and plenty of action that would make Conan flex in joy. Give this one a read if you can.
That’s all for today.