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No Dominion
Charlie Huston
Del Rey, 251 pages

No Dominion
Charlie Huston
Charlie Huston is a former actor who lives in Manhattan with his wife, the actress Virginia Louise Smith. He is the author of the Henry Thompson trilogy (Caught Stealing, Six Bad Things, and A Dangerous Man) and the first Joe Pitt Casebook, Already Dead.

Charlie Huston Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: 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, and survives by feeding off its host's blood -- which forces its host to go out and drink more blood so the Vyrus can survive. There's a whole Vampyre subculture in New York City, dominated by several powerful Clans -- a hidden world of power and violence unsuspected by ordinary human beings. In this secret world, Joe's what's known as a Rogue. Though he was once an enforcer for the politically-minded Society, does occasional strong-arm work for the powerful Coalition, and is the object of periodic recruitment efforts by the mysterious Enclave, he has no fixed Clan alliance.

This can be a problem when the freelance jobs dry up, and there's no money to buy the packaged blood that keeps a Vampyre from prowling the streets and ripping people's throats out. To make matters worse, Joe's worried about his girlfriend Evie, whose HIV status is deteriorating and whose medical bills are mounting. Swallowing his pride, he goes to Terry Bird, leader of the Society, and asks for work. As it happens, Terry's got something that needs looking into. There's a growing drug problem in the Vampyre community, some really bad stuff that makes users go crazy -- not easy to manage for those infected with the Vyrus, which is solicitous of its hosts and cleans drugs and alcohol out of their systems almost as fast as they go in. Terry asks Joe to find out who's dealing.

A little pressure on Joe's favorite snitch turns up a middleman: a trust fund kid in a downtown loft who calls himself the Count. The drug is in bags of fresh, Vyrus-infected blood. Drinking infected blood would kill a Vampyre -- but the drug isn't consumed, it's injected. The Count doesn't know what the drug is or why it works, but he does know where it comes from: Uptown, above 110th Street, the area controlled by the Vampyre Clan known as the Hood. This is enemy turf. To reach it, Joe will have to cross Coalition territory, and he's not exactly on good terms with the Coalition either. But Hood thugs and Coalition enforcers turn out to be the least of his problems. A forgotten evil waits in an Uptown mansion, along with a deadly plot that could lead to war among the Clans -- unless Joe can survive long enough to figure out who's pulling the strings.

Already Dead was gritty and hip, packed with exciting action yet carefully attentive to the nuances of character. No Dominion is even better. The plot is a nonstop, explosively gory thrill-ride whose twists and reversals deliver surprises right up until the end -- a true page-turner, impossible to put down. The glimpses of Vampyre culture, a bizarre nighttime world invisible to those who walk in daylight, are both fascinating and chilling, and the vicious complexities of Vampyre politics, where the smallest alteration of the balance could tip the Clans into open conflict, have plenty of real-world resonance.

As before, Charlie Huston fills the book with memorable characters -- from the bigoted, relentless Vampyre matriarch Maureen Vandewater, to DJ Grave Digga, the charismatic leader of the Hood, to Terry Bird, who combines a post-Woodstock cultural ethos with a Machiavellian mastery of double dealing, to the Count, an amoral Gen-X slacker whose home life is a series of satirical references to Dracula movies ("I hate that self-aware, ironic, pop culture Vampyre shit," Joe tells him at one point). Huston has an amazing ear for dialogue, and endows each of these characters with his or her own distinctive voice. As for Joe, a tough guy's tough guy whose profane, world-weary first-person narration anchors the story, he edges close to noir stereotype, but is saved from actually becoming stereotypical by his very human doubts, and his unflinching recognition of his own moral failings.

Huston doesn't neglect the meta-story. Once again, Joe must seek help from the secretive Enclave, which is founded on the belief that the Vyrus is a spiritual force that will ultimately produce a Vampyre savior. Joe's discoveries about the drug may reflect upon that spiritual quest, and also raise disturbing questions about the origins and history of Vampyre society. Hopefully, we'll learn more in the series' next installment. I can't wait.

Copyright © 2007 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.

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