Damage Control is a novella with enough going on to fill a novel and yet told with just the amount of detail necessary to feel complete. The world is intriguing, and clearly much bigger than what comes out in this story, but the novella stands alone with all the information necessary to bring me to a satisfying conclusion. What’s interesting to me, as a long-term David Bridger reader, is that this is the first story of his I’ve read to fall smack dab in the center of the intended genre instead of showing his unique interpretation of what the genre could be. This is not, by any means, a criticism, though. Damage Control is a solid science fiction story.
It’s set against the background of a generation ship, once part of a twinned pair before disaster struck taking with it Kath Preston’s father and setting Kath up for the complicated life as the daughter of a martyred hero.
Kath and Jen are the main characters in our introduction to life on Romeo. They form part of a team that keeps the ship running, the equivalent of the team whose negligence was responsible for the Juliet’s destruction. The novella gives us enough grounding in their duties so that their roles are clear, but it’s not those roles that form the heart of this story.
Kath and Jen are in a relationship tangle because Kath is haunted by her father’s death. Their emotional disconnect is strong and clear throughout, forming the internal story to balance against how the two tackle head on situations those in command have neglected to recognize. They perform important research, solve mysteries, and otherwise have adventures both pleasant and not during the story.
These young women are not the quiet, retiring types, but at the same time, they only act when necessary. I was drawn in both by their strength and the way they recognize the strengths of those around them. Neither Kath nor Jen need to be in the lead. They’re focused on getting the job done whether that means doing it themselves or calling up those well-suited for the role. It says something for David’s skill that he manages to make their care for others such a solid part of the story without ever adding something that doesn’t serve to drive the story forward.
I’d be hard-pressed to identify anything in the tale that didn’t prove critical, a fact I find amusing because one of the elements is a scientific lecture about cosmic particles while another is hanging out with a dolphin.
Seriously, though, I’m talking around the story because I don’t want to spoil anything, but it’s a solid win for science fiction readers, offering both social commentary in the form of alternate relationships and sexual predators, and a good dose of plausible science that takes an interesting turn. I could see the ship, feel the way the different pieces work together, and being me, I predicted some of the events not because they’re obvious by any means but because they’re well seeded.
David’s a friend now, but we came together over a critique exchange many years before. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read of his since whether for critique or purchased to read. This particular story he gave me a while back with no expectation of a review, but if ever I want to convince you to give an author a try, I’d be a fool not to review this one. If you look in my review archives, I’m pretty sure you’ll see a few of his titles. This is the first science fiction of his I’ve read, though, and he’s proved just as talented in this as in his other genres.