Damnation is the afterlife… not quite Hell but possibly in the same neighbourhood. Many a not-quite-as-bad-as-he-thought man ends up there to spend eternity drinking, gambling and not doing much else. Not out of choice - there simply isn’t all that much to do
Though eternity ends quickly for some - there’s a theory that if you go a year without killing someone then you’re redeemed for Heaven. No-one has succeeded so far; though Thomas, the town chronicler, is trying.
The men eke out their existence in the saloon, trying not to antagonise the werewolves or annoy the town’s vampire; and trying to not get into any gunfights they might lose.
But things are changing - there’s a new gunslinger in town, better than any before. And following him is rarest of all, a woman.
This book is, in many ways, pointless. It’s full of unknowables, with virtually no world building, no set motivations, little understanding, conflict without foundation, characters without purpose and no real conclusion
Which is excellent.
Which is the whole point.
The cast is in an afterlife… an old west afterlife - people die and appear in this old west town which was the original era for most of the people there. But time is clearly moving on - so we don’t know if, as the years pass, this town will evolve especially as new characters are descending down to the town of Damnation where they spend their days eating pork, drinking whiskey, gambling and having various gun battles.
But the core foundation of Damnation is even “Damnation” is an assumption. No-one really understands the nature of it’s town, why they’re there, where they go when they die, what its purpose is. What’s really fascinating is us being presented with a lot of really interesting rules and theories but ultimately it all rests on no-one knowing: of people living every day without real purpose except to live another day
I think beyond anything else that is the underpinning foundation of this book. We get conflict and more structured purpose later on and we definitely have individual character arcs. But the first half, maybe even third, of this book does an excellent job of world building - or theme building rather. We have all these people in this afterlife eeking and existence and struggling for… well… nothing? Anything?
This is an excellent foundation to underpin the feeling of almost desperate hopelessness with the place, in some ways even the desperate pointlessness of it - and of that thing thread of survival they cling to. It underpins all the characters as people come and go, new leaders, new gun slingers who leave their stamp on the town before fading when the next threat comes. And people die, even people who have been central for so long and it fades and changes