Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
Already Dead
Charlie Huston
Del Rey, 268 pages

Already Dead
Charlie Huston
Charlie Huston is a former actor who lives in Manhattan with his wife, the actress Virginia Louise Smith. His previous novels are Caught Stealing and Six Bad Things.

Charlie Huston Website
Excerpt from Already Dead
Interview with Charlie Huston

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Victoria Strauss

Joe Pitt's a Vampyre. He's been infected by a Vyrus that slows aging, imparts phenomenal strength and sensory abilities, enables almost instantaneous healing, and survives by feeding off its host's blood -- which forces its host to go out and drink more blood so the Vyrus can have plenty of sustenance. There's a whole Vampyre subculture in New York City, loosely gathered into Clans or collectives -- a hidden world of power and struggle unsuspected by ordinary human beings who live their lives in daylight. In this secret world, Joe's something of an outsider. Though he was involved for a time with the politically-minded Society, does occasional work for the powerful Coalition, and is the object of periodic recruitment efforts by the mysterious Enclave, he has no fixed Clan alliance.

Also unbeknownst to ordinary New Yorkers, the city is crawling with zombies, victims of a bacterial infection that rots their bodies from the inside and gives them an insatiable appetite for human brains. One of the jobs Joe does for the Coalition is to exterminate zombies, whose gruesome activities shine too bright a light on the supernatural side of life. During an especially nasty run-in with a zombie trio, he makes a disturbing discovery: there's a carrier on the loose, something that's passing on the zombie infection. His bosses at the Coalition, angry at the police and media attention drawn by the incident, order Joe to track down and eliminate the carrier. Later, in return for cleaning up the mess, they demand a service: Joe is to find Amanda Horde, the missing teenage daughter of wealthy scientist Dr. Dale Edward Horde and his alcoholic wife Marilee.

Joe doesn't want to go looking for a runaway teenager. He doesn't like dealing with humans, and is reluctant to get mixed up in the Coalition's schemes. But it'd be a very bad idea to say no to the Coalition. Just as he fears, the search for Amanda and the carrier draws Joe deep into a web of greed, deceit, and perversion -- a journey that will take him to the outer edge of the Vyrus's grip on him, shift the balance of power between the Clans, and uncover an evil beyond anything anyone, except possibly the secretive Enclave, could have imagined.

Vampires have been so thoroughly done (or overdone) that it's pretty tough to come up with a new angle. At first glance, Already Dead looks awfully familiar. Urban vampires, viral transmission, hard-boiled PI protagonist, pulp horror references -- been there, read that, threw away the T-shirt. Yet within a couple of chapters it's clear that Charlie Huston has found a distinctive way to put these elements together. Joe's cocky, profane, conversational first-person narration carries a story that's replete with hard-driving, blood-and-brains-splattering action, but is also surprisingly introspective. Joe's a classic noir tough guy, a ruthless enforcer with a taste for self-destruction and a soft spot for his girl, but his very human struggles with the uncertainties of his Vampyrism add depth to his character, and his questions about the meaning of his supernatural existence, as well as his growing dissatisfaction with the limitations of his night-bound life, have more than vampiric resonance.

The author creates an interesting Vampyre culture, with its outcast Rogues and rival gangs and over it all the Clans, warring like city-states over sharply conflicting philosophies and agendas: the scruffy countercultural Society, the Mafia-like Coalition with its Armani-garbed boss, the mystic Enclave, whose members believe that the Vyrus is of supernatural origin and that, by holding themselves at the brink of starvation, they may somehow cross over into the supernatural plane. Established vampire lore is incorporated, but in a self-referential, postmodern sort of way -- it isn't just the author recycling the mythos, it's the characters themselves:

There are people that know about us. But they are few and most play a specific role. There are the Van Helsings, the righteous who stumble upon us and make it their mission to hunt us down. The Renfields like Philip, who glom on to us, half servile and half envious. The Lucys, both male and female, who have romanticized the whole vampire myth and dote over us like groupies. And the Minas, the ones who know the truth and don't care, the ones who fall in love. Van Helsings are killed, we use the Renfields and the Lucys to serve us and insulate us from the world. Minas are rare and precious beyond value. There is only one way to know if you have a true Mina: tell her or him what you are and what you do to stay alive. Not many make that final cut.
The violence of this novel isn't subtle, but the craft is. It's a promising start to a new series. Look for the next Joe Pitt Casebook, No Dominion, sometime this year.

Copyright © 2006 Victoria Strauss

Victoria Strauss is a novelist, and a lifelong reader of fantasy and science fiction. Her most recent fantasy novel, The Awakened City, is available from HarperCollins Eos. For more information, visit her website.

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or anything else worth mentioning, please send it to
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide