Damnation for Beginners
by Alan Campbell
Cover Artist: Ian McQue
Review by Mel Jacob
Subterranean Press Deluxe Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781596064393
Date: 31 May 2012
Hell as only a CPA or banker could envision it is the setting for Alan Cambell's novella Damnation for Beginners. The smoothly written story begins with Joe Aviso doing his job to process complaints and inform people of their ever larger debt to the Henry Sill Banking Corporation. Complaints are processed in 90-second sessions. At the end, the complainer either leaves voluntarily or a trap door opens and dumps them out. Overpayment, underpayment, and even full repayment ends with the Corporation adding fees, interest, and other charges so the debtor can never discharge the debt.
Joe and his wife Carol both work for the Corporation in Complaint Processing. At some point, Carol helped someone instead of sending the person to the Resolution Department. This incurs the notice of enforcers who arrest Carol and take her away. Joe tries to follow with no success.
He discovers that his home has been seized by the Corporation and he no longer has a job. Joe seeks the help of an older colleague. Eventually, he learns Carol was slated to become a whore in brothel, but died fighting her captors. He finds her body and his colleague arranges for burial.
Carol's death is the last straw for Joe, and he tries to confront Henry Sill. He finds a corpse with missing hands and realizes Sill has gone to Hell to form an alliance with the King of Hell. The enforcers who abducted Carol, chase him, but he escapes.
Desperate situations call for desperate measures. Joe goes to the Complaint Department determined to reach Hell and Sill. What happens there and how Joe obtains his revenge is the climax of the novella.
The novella has an air of inevitability about it. No reason is given why the colleague would risk helping Joe. Sly humor enlivens the tragic nature of the story.
This novella is part of the Deepgate Codex series. The ending leaves the possibility of further adventures for Joe and certainly for Campbell's Cog City.