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I have recently discovered that there is a section of readers that only read books that contain Vampires, or a variation of the Vampyr myth. Like me you may think, Ok, a little dark perhaps, but they must not read that much? You would be wrong, there is a huge amount of fiction written every year that contains Vampires, not just Ann Rice. I get the impression that there are so many books published on the matter that Waterstones should open a Vampire section next to the Fantasy and Science Fiction sections. If you chose to you could easily read 50 books a year all about the blood sucking undead. However, velvet wearing, thinly disguised romance novels do not appeal to me at all. Therefore, I was interested to come across a book that married the PI crime genre with Vlad and Co.
Joe Pitt is a rouge vampire living in a rough part of New York just trying to get on with his non-life. Already Dead is set in a New York secretly ruled by separate Vampire factions living in relative peace unknowingly by humans. Pike lives off the grid and rather than aliening himself with one group he tries to work for all of them as a freelance PI. Its in this capacity that he is hired by the richer Vampire group to go downtown and find a missing girl. It all starts off pretty normally when he stumbles across three zombies trying to eat a student. However, things soon become far more tangled when the different Vampire sects try to manipulate the situation for their own gain. Can Pitt balance the warring clans whilst trying to find the girl?
Already Dead is a very interesting concept and it is this that made the book a good read. I liked the idea of a Vampire who happened to be a PI. In many aspects this is a straight forward Noir crime novel as our hero goes from beating to beating in an attempt to uncover the truth. With a solid crime foundation Huston is able to add a rich layer of fantasy into the mix and in doing so he has created an interesting world. The concept that there are several different secret Vampire groups who have divided up New York works wonderfully. It gives so much promise of future tales to be told in the same universe. Huston plays the different sects, with their different viewpoints, off one another perfectly. The book is as much about the politics of Vampires as it is a murder mystery. Pitt acts as a means for Huston to tell a story about the secrets of New York and this was a highlight for me.
The characters that Huston creates are not quite as strong as his central ideas, but luckily the best character is Pitt the main protagonist. Pitt is a punk who was made a Vampire in the toilets during a rock gig back in the 70s. Before mistakenly walking into the midday sun he is adopted by a Vampire clan that believes in creating harmony and democracy in downtown New York. However, after a few years he realises that he just want to be left alone so sets up by himself. Pitt is such an interesting and useful character because he knows every group within the Joe Pitt universe. He is an almost atypical PI with an addiction to blood rather than the usual alcohol.
Another area that I liked about this book was Hustons insistence of keeping the feel real. Even though the book contains Zombies and Vampires it is all explained using science rather than fantasy. There are infections in the world that cause people to become monsters and therefore there is also a potential cure for these diseases. Huston hints that their may be supernatural powers out there but even the Vampires are cynical that such things exist. This realistic way of explaining the unreal works brilliantly in a similar way to the underrated sci fi show Ultraviolet.
Despite the great universe created, there are a couple of issues with Already Dead that prevent it being a classic. Firstly, the central mystery of the missing girl is not that strong, however, I feel that as this is book one it acts as a good introduction to the characters and that the potential for better stories is there. I was also a little underwhelmed by the way the dialogue was written. Rather than using inverted commas, Huston decided to use a dash. This means that the book looked stylised, but sometimes it was a little confusing to tell who was actually talking.
Already Dead has great potential and to a large extent it meets it. The book does not alienate people who are not fans of the Vampire mystique, instead it embraces a dark and edgy noir sci fi feel similar to Blade Runner. The concept of a hidden society of monsters is a great one and Huston executes his ideas perfectly; if he can make full use of its potential this series of books could become classics. I would recommend this book to fans of dark science fiction as it certainly meets that criteria I for one can not wait to read the sequel.
Author: Charlie Huston
Price: amazon uk - £5.49
play.com - £5.49
They live among us, slaves to the very condition that empowers them. They are the Vampyre, and their sole chance at survival lies in banding into Clans. Only Joe Pitt has gone his own way. The upside is freedom. The downside is there's nobody on his side when trouble comes around. Joe gets rough receptions from all the countless Clans shifting about on the island of Manhattan, but his current trouble is with the Coalition ? the Clan that controls the city river to river, from 14th Street to 110th Street. To make things right, Joe takes on his most perilous case: The daughter of a prominent New York family is missing, and her Vampyre fascination makes Joe the ideal man for this high-stakes job. With his ferocious style, Charlie Huston offers a thrilling new twist to one of our oldest myths.