Already Dead: Right up my alley

Charlie Huston Joe Pitt 1. Already Deadfantasy book reviews Charlie Huston Joe Pitt Casebooks 1. Already DeadAlready Dead by Charlie Huston

Going in, I was super-confident that this series was going to be right up my alley and I wasn’t disappointed in the least. For starters, that same unflinching Tarantino-esque dialogue, urban vernacular and stylized violence that I loved so much from The Shotgun Rule were on display here in all of its explicit glory. Even better, there was a much more pronounced noir influence — Joe’s first-person narrative, crime / mystery subplots, a frequent use of flashbacks, Manhattan’s seedy underworld setting — running in the book and I absolutely love noir! You know what I love even more though… vampires. And that’s the defining gimmick in Already Dead. Joe Pitt, a fairly typical blend of resident fall guy and sardonic bad-ass, is a Vampyre…

Vampirism remains one of the more popular concepts in the world of fiction, be it film, literature, television or videogames. Unfortunately the novelty has somewhat worn off over the years because more times than not, the same ideas are just being recycled over and over. What I like about Charlie Huston’s Vampyres is that they’re a mix of old and new ideas, resulting in a mythology that is at once familiar, yet refreshingly edgy. So, on the one hand you have such recognizable traits as the need to drink human blood — animal blood doesn’t seem to work though; a fatal weakness against sunlight; enhanced senses, strength and speed; rapid healing; and immortality… of a sort. At the same time, these Vampyres are immune to garlic and holy water; they can see their reflection; and as Joe demonstrates throughout the novel, they can eat food; smoke, drink enough to get a buzz; have sex; and get beaten up, knocked out cold, poisoned and even killed much like any normal human — though it is a bit tougher. There’s also the little matter of the Vyrus, which is what turns people into Vampyres in the first place and is a pretty interesting concept though not much is known about it, except starving the Vyrus seems to have some nasty side effects. What I liked best though, was the Vampyres’ differing philosophies.

Basically, in Manhattan there’s about nine million humans compared to four thousand Vampyres. So, with numbers like that stacked up against you, opinions tend to vary about how the Vampyres should be living their lives and as a result, different clans are formed. The largest and most powerful of these Clans is the mafia-like Coalition, which preaches invisibility and are said to control “a vast and secret supply of blood”. Then there’s the more liberal-thinking Society who wants to unite all of the Clans and go public. And then there’s the Buddha-like Enclave who live a life of ‘meditation & martial arts’, starving them selves in the pursuit of the metaphysical and possess extraordinary abilities. There are other Clans as well along with Rogues who try to make it on their own, but those three are the important ones, at least in this story. You see, Joe is more or less a Rogue who’s been playing the sides of all three Clans. Normally he’s got things under control, but when a routine Zombie problem that needs taking care of in his neighborhood turns ugly, the shit starts hitting the fan. First, he’s got Coalition breathing down his neck to make sure he fixes the problem quietly; then he’s got the Society all up in his face because some of the members think he’s a Coalition spy; and finally he’s being pressured by the Enclave to join their clan. To make matters worse, Joe can’t find the Zombie carrier who’s been infecting people; he’s lied to the Coalition which could mean execution — stakes and sunrise style; and he’s been hired to help a rich, powerful & influential human couple find their runaway Goth girl with the wife & husband each having their own agenda. If that’s not enough, someone’s trying to set him up; his precious blood supply has been stolen; a deadly ghost-like Wraith is on the prowl; and Joe’s relationship with his human girlfriend is on the rocks. No, the future does not look at all bright for Mr. Joe Pitt…

So that’s Already Dead for you. It was all that I was hoping for and then some — great characters, a crazy story, kick-ass dialogue, a vivid setting. You have to give the author credit. Opening volumes in a series can be tricky, but Charlie Huston handles it with ease. I mean the book grabs you from the very first page; it does an excellent job of establishing the milieu, Joe’s character, his supporting cast and explaining the different clans, Vampyres, etc., without force-feeding the info to you; and while the story is all wrapped up with a neat little bowtie, it definitely leaves you thirsting for more. All in all, just a fantastic way to kick off the series.


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ROBERT THOMPSON is the creator and former editor of Fantasy Book Critic, a website dedicated to the promotion of speculative fiction. Before FBC, he worked in the music industry editing Kings of A&R and as an A&R scout for Warner Bros. Besides reading and music, Robert also loves video games, football, and art. He lives in the state of Washington with his wife Annie and their children Zane and Kayla. Robert retired from FanLit in October 2011 after more than 2 years of service. He doesn't do much reviewing anymore, but he still does a little work for us behind the scenes.

View all posts by Robert Thompson (retired)

One comment

  1. I liked this one. The lack of quotes around the dialogue drove me a bit batty, but the story was compelling.

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