Monday, February 26, 2007

Already Dead – review

Author: Charlie Huston

First published: 2005

Contains spoilers

Joe Pitt lives in Manhattan and Joe Pitt is a vampyre. However Manhattan is divided into several clan areas and Joe is non-aligned, picking up jobs for all the clans and making few friends in the process. As well as hunting down the carrier of the zombie bacteria, who has been infecting people, Joe is forced to take on the job of tracking down the daughter of two of New York’s socialites, a young lady with a vampyre obsession.

This is the basic premise of Already Dead. In the book vampirism is caused by a virus known as the vyrus, whilst a bacteria causes folk to become brain eating zombies, and all this is hidden from the general population. Joe himself was a punk who was infected at CBGB. The vyrus feeds on blood and protects its host by causing them to be stronger, have keener senses and heal with great speed; it also gives them a hunger.

The vyrus also causes them to become viciously allergic to the sun, tumours erupting rapidly with exposure that will quickly kill them. Failure to feed the hunger causes the vyrus to turn on its host and cause death in a spectacular fashion. Being victims of a virus, vampyres cast reflections and do not fear holy icons. Joe dislikes garlic, but that is a personal trait and not a vampyre trait.

The zombie bacteria literally eats the host and is particularly virulent when it comes to brain matter, thus the zombies’ cognitive functions rapidly deteriorate and they have a desire to consume other brains. The zombies literally rot where they walk. The outbreaks of zombies is low due to the fact that they tend to devour their victims, rather than bite and infect, and because the vampyres will intervene to stop outbreaks.

All in all these are not supernatural creatures, though the supernatural does come into the book. One of the clans, the Enclave, believe in starving themselves to try and attain a supernatural ascension and warn Joe of a wraith – a purely supernatural entity whch, of course, no one really believes in.

The book is very much a contemporary noir detective story, with a horror element, and Hutson pulls no punches when it comes to content. If I had one issue it was within the dialogue. An example of the dialogue is:

- Jesus. How long ago?
- Oh, several weeks now.
- And he’s still alive?
- Well, that’s a subject for some debate, is it not?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the actual content of Hutson’s dialogue, however, call me old fashioned but I don’t see what is so wrong with using parentheses with dialogue and it took me some time to get used to the style. I did get used to it and it is only a minor gripe.

All in all, a great start to what promises to be a five book series, the case wrapped up satisfactorily but enough threads and inter-clan political intrigue on the boil to draw me back. Pitt is a great, no nonsense character, trying to make his way independently in a world that hates independence.

7.5 out of 10.

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