A couple of months ago I popped in the audiobook version of Charlie Huston’s Already Dead and was immediately impressed by its inventive vampire turf war set amongst the 5 boroughs of Manhattan as well as the noir styling and hard-boiled attitude to Joe Pitt himself. Pitt isn’t really a private detective, he’s more Hawk then Spencer, an enforcer, a hired gun, and occasionally a detective.
As has been trendy over the last several years, and somewhat perpetuated by The Strain, the vampires of Huston’s world are the product of a virus. Though there is little hard science about the virus as the corporate-like vampire group known as the Coalition tightly controls both information and funds. What I especially like about Huston’s world are the monastic and superstitious Enclave. Lead by the enigmatic vampire known as Daniel they seek, through deprivation, to grow close to the more spiritual and supernatural aspect of the vampire.
Where the Coalition represents a more corporate modern take on organizing vampires, and the Enclave takes a more spiritual/religious route, the Society are a group of vaguely anarchist/socialist vampires set to organize the under-represented populations into a political entity. Lead by Terry, the Society’s turf is where Pitt lives though he long ago split with from that group. There are other smaller clans that Huston mentions or introduces but those three represent the major forces in the vampire community and provide a rather difficult maze to navigate for one lone “rogue” vampire, Joe Pitt, who is just looking to survive.
Pitt is stoic, with a bit of a smart mouth that consistently gets him in trouble. He isn’t afraid to use violence to get information or to make a point. As mentioned he is frequently pulled in multiple directions by the three major clans; tied to the Society given his history with them, ties the Corporation because of the sheer amount of power they command, and tied to the Enclave through the level of fear they generate in the other clans and the information they have at their disposal. Pitt, as of Already Dead and No Dominion, has no other goal then simply to survive; to live his life, or afterlife, as well as he can before somebody or something finishes him off.
Already Dead sees Pitt facing off against a zombie virus that is causing undue attention. There is more to the plot then that of course, involving a missing girl, and it doesn’t speak to the depth of political tension that Pitt faces as he attempts to uncover the truth behind the zombie “carrier” wreaking havoc on Society territory. Though typically associated with NPR, Already Dead’s conclusion was a “driveway moment.” Actually, more than that, since I took the disk out of the car and brought it inside to finishing listening to it.
No Dominion sees Pitt heading down to Harlem in order stave off what looks to be a major war between the Clans. It heads deeper into the history of the world that Huston has created, subtly fleshing out the reality of the vampire infested Manhattan. While I didn’t find the conclusion nearly as tense as in Already Dead it was still an enormously satisfying listen that left me hungry for more. Both No Dominion and Already Dead throw in a bit of personal drama for Pitt as he must juggle his work with his very human girlfriend Evie who doesn’t know what he is or what exactly he was.
Both audiobooks are narrated by Scott Brick. Brick has a laconic, laid back tone that he delivers a steady pace. It took a bit of getting used to but after a while Brick faded away and I was only left with Joe Pitt. It’s the type of narration that reminds me why I love audiobooks and given Brick’s heavy work in sci-fi and fantasy audiobook scene certainly incentive to track down some of his other work. Unfortunately there are no listings for the remainder of the Pitt novels on audio (Half the Blood of Brooklyn, Every Last Drop, and My Dead Body) but, in stroke of good fortune, Audible.com has both Already Dead and No Dominion available for around $15 each which is a steal for quality entertainment. Hopefully, we’ll see more of Huston’s Pitt novels on audio in the future. Meanwhile, what we do have is very much worth a listen.