fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsDamnation for Beginners by Alan CampbellDamnation for Beginners by Alan Campbell

Alan Campbell has been on my TBR list for years, but I still haven’t managed to get around to reading his DEEPGATE CODEX. That is going to change soon, though, because I just finished his novella Damnation for Beginners which takes place in the city of Cog in the DEEPGATE CODEX world.

This short book is about Jack and Carol Aviso, who work as bank tellers for the greedy Henry Sill Banking Corporation. Jack and Carol know better than to keep their money with Henry Sill because nearly every day the customer account policies change and the customers continue to become further indebted to the company. Jack’s and Carol’s jobs are to explain the convoluted policies to the thousands of customers who line up daily to complain. The offices of the tellers are located in cabins in a huge cog embedded in a cliff. The cog rotates constantly, mining for ore that’s inside the mountain. Customers get in at the top of the cliff and, if they aren’t satisfied by the time their cabin gets to the bottom of the mountain, a trapdoor opens and out they go.

It’s no use to complain to any authorities about the Henry Sill Banking Company because the company owns the courts. Henry and Carol have avoided disaster by not becoming bank customers, but when Carol resolves a complaint to the satisfaction of one of her customers, the bank targets the Avisos. Jack vows to find Henry Sill and get revenge. This is bad timing because Mr. Sill is on an extended business trip… in Hell. Jack decides to follow him down there and make him pay. Fortunately, he has some help from a little book called Damnation for Beginners.

Alan Campbell has created a fascinating world both above and below ground in Damnation for Beginners. I loved the imagery and I wish we had had more time to explore the city of Cog and, though it seems strange to say this, I’d like to spend some more time in Hell. Campbell’s imaginative world-building and bizarre plot are the best features of Damnation for Beginners, but I also enjoyed the characterization of Jack Aviso. Jack seems weak-willed and wimpy and has a bit of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder — he avoids touching anything that other people have touched and he doesn’t like to be breathed on. So it’s amusing to see him snap and pursue vengeance even to the point of invading Hell.

Damnation for Beginners is only 128 pages long and as I neared the end I wasn’t ready for the story to be over. The ending is left to our imagination, which will please some readers and frustrate others. I usually don’t mind an open-ended conclusion, but I admit in this case that I wanted more resolution than I got.

I’m looking forward to reading more of Alan Campbell’s work. He has just the kind of weird imagination that I love.

Deepgate Codex — (2007-2012) Lye Street is a prequel. Iron Angel is called Penny Devil in the UK. Publisher: Suspended by chains over a seemingly bottomless abyss, the ancient city of Deepgate is home to a young angel, an assassin, and a psychotic murderer hungry for revenge — or redemption. But soon a shocking betrayal will unite all three in a desperate quest… The last of his line, Dill is descended from legendary Battle-archons who once defended the city. Forbidden to fly and untrained even to wield the great sword inherited from his forebears, he has become a figurehead for a dying tradition. Now he lives a sheltered existence in one of Deepgate’s crumbling temple spires under the watchful eye of the Presbyter who rules the city. Spine assassin Rachel Hael has better things to do than oversee the Presbyter’s angel. Each dark moon she must fight for her life among the city chains, hunting an immortal predator with a taste for blood. But when a traitor brings enemies to Deepgate’s doorstep, Dill and Rachel are forced into an uneasy alliance with the city’s oldest and most dangerous foe. They must journey down into the uncharted chasm to save their sprawling metropolis — and themselves — from annihilation. Once they descend however, they learn that what lies below is far more sinister than what they’ve been taught to expect.

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  • Kat Hooper

    KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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