The continuing chronicle of Wesley's quest to be published; plus comments on popular culture, family life, and whatever else falls out of his head.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

REVIEW: "Already Dead," Charlie Huston

I'm something of a slow reader. It's not often that I can read a full novel in a day. I generally have neither the time nor the inclination. I'm a notorious bibliophile--meaning I buy (or, since my marriage, borrow from the library) books I never get around to reading. But a couple of days ago, I was sick enough to stay home and recuperated enough to want to stay awake. So I pulled one of the five borrowed novels I have laying on my desk, crawled back upstairs to bed and settled in.

Vampyre clans have sliced up control of the island of Manhattan into territories and have settled into an uneasy detente. The wealthy corporate types of business sector, the militants and hippies in the village, the new-agers on the west side, etc. Joe Pitt is a rogue: not belonging to any clan but affiliated with several and desired by many. He's not a detective by trade, but a "fixit guy," much like Repairman Jack in F. Paul Wilson's series. He "takes care of things" for people. Often he's "taking care of business" for one clan in another clan's territory. He's doing this very thing, tracking zombies in Alphabet City, when he gets called in by one of the clans and asked to perform a favor he cannot refuse. A non-Vampyre teenage girl has run away from home, and Joe has to track her down. In his investigation, he discovers that this girl and her family have much closer ties to both the Vampyres and the zombies than he imagined.

Huston has created an interesting world in which vampires and zombies "live," stripping away some of the basic mythology and replacing it with pseudo-science that at least sounds like it makes sense on the first reading. His style is suitably noirish while also appealing to the literary crowd. His prose is tight, taut and... decently paced. While the plot moved along pretty briskly, there were moments where the suspense stopped and he had to explain how things worked in his world. And the denoument of the story was sixty pages, which is easily fifty-five more than is ever needed in a thriller, and seemed to exist only to page Huston's thin page count.

The book was entertaining enough, as pulpish as it was. But there wasn't anything particularly new or original. Elements of this book that may be cutting edge in mystery or crime writing are standard in fantasy, even cliche. There's even a name for the sub-genre: urban fantasy. Huston isn't doing anything that Simon Green, Laurel K. Hamilton or Jim Butcher haven't already done to great success. They just get shelved on the other side of the store.


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