SFcrowsnest

Damnation For Beginners by Alan Campbell (book review)

‘Damnation For Beginners’ is a novella set in the world of Alan Campbell’s ‘Deepgate Codex’ and follows the story of Jack Aviso, a bank teller at Henry Sill Banking Corporation in the city of Cog. Jack has been keeping his head down and following the rules of the entirely unfair and corrupt bank. Their policies are all designed to make as much profit as possible at the benefit of their customers, all of which are and will be in debt to the corporation with no change of repayment for the rest of their lives. Jack and his wife, Carol, both work at the bank and having first hand knowledge of its policies have stayed free of its clutches.

Jack realises that no one is safe when, after a normal working day when Carol is taken by Henry Sill Corporation enforcers and their entire life has been erased and new identities have been manufactured for them so they are now in debt to the Corporation. Carol trying to escape her captors is accidentally killed and Jack decides to take his revenge on Henry Sill, as head of the corporation. To do so, Jack has to go to Hell, which in this world is a tangible place ruled by the King Menoa the Lord of Hell, who is in talks with Sill on starting a branch of the bank in Hell. The kingdom has its own rules and, once Jack gets there, he has to adhere to them and deal with the other souls there to achieve his revenge.

The most interesting part of the novella is definitely the way Hell is designed. As the souls are used to construct the structures in Hell with their bodies, which are controlled by them consciously and subconsciously into what they think they deserve after they die. I liked how Jack’s obsessive compulsive disorder is subtly inferred. Campbell makes it a small part of his character instead of using it as a plot device which makes Jack more relatable as a protagonist. I’m not really sure if the ending is hopeful or not, especially after the injustice Jack and all the Cog residents faced, but it is definitely filled with possibilities.

The gothic/noir ink drawings by Bob Eggleton in every chapter were lovely and tied into the themes of the book well.

Supreethi Selvam

November 2016

(pub: Subterranean Press, 2012. 122 page deluxe hardback. Price: $35.00 (US). ISBN: 978-1-59606-439-3)

check out website: www.subterraneanpress.com