No Dominion by Charlie Huston – review

no dominion charlie hustonI originally reviewed No Dominion by Charlie Huston on December 18th, 2006.

No Dominion, the second book in the Joe Pitt Casebooks series by Charlie Huston, kicks off right in the middle of things with Pitt and his girlfriend Evie at a bar. Pitt is getting beat pretty handily by another vampyre. This shouldn’t be happening because as has been hinted at in the past and will be explored later on in more detail, the older vampyres aren’t easily beaten and Pitt has been around. It turns out that there is a new drug hitting the vampyre community especially the younger ones that gives its users a radical high but also crazed super human strength, even by vampyre standards. Pitt goes to long time acquaintance and one time friend Terry, the head of Coalition with this discovery. Terry hires Pitt to investigate the influx of drugs into their neighborhood. Like Captain Willard this investigation will send him uptown into the dark heart of Hood territory, and beyond. By the end of the novel there will be revelations and tough decisions to be made.

By the end of Already Dead Huston had given us the lay of the land. We were given details on three of the major Clans: Coalition, Society and Enclave. The other major Clan, The Hood, was mentioned but wasn’t explored in any great detail only appearing on the periphery. Probably recognizing this Huston has moved them to the forefront of the action this time around. For a group whose importance is central to the history of the Clans, specifically how they are divided, it was necessary for them to have the spotlight at some point.

At one point in the novel Pitt goes to see Daniel, the head of Enclave, the metaphysical Vampyre Clan, to have some of his questions answered. When he leaves he says this: “Daniel. Gonna have to talk to him some more. Jesus. Ask him a question and all he does is kick up more dust. But it is interesting dust.” Well this is how I feel about Huston, he answers some questions directly, he’s vague on others and you always come away with more of them then when you went to him.

Pitt’s relationship with Evie continues to grow. It’s been three years for them and as her HIV continues to get worse and his unwillingness to be completely honest with her about what he does creates tension in the relationship one quickly realizes that they are headed for a reckoning. It may not happen in Already Dead, it may not happen in No Dominion but it will happen at some point. Their relationship and this impending impasse continue to fascinate. The moral dilemmas that are presented are complex and provide no easy answers. Of all the on going subplots in the Joe Pitt Casebooks this may very well be the most interesting, it haunts and fascinates long after the covers are closed.

For the most part Already Dead was expository; with a lot of the detailed background information out of the way No Dominion is a leaner, meaner story. Given Huston‘s writing style and the average length of the books it is to his credit that he assumes one has read Already Dead first, allowing No Dominion to grown in stature as it stands on the shoulders of the previous book not wasting precious time and space rehashing things already discussed.

Following the episodic template of Already Dead, No Dominion is a fully contained story finding resolution by the end. However Huston never forgets to advance the larger story at hand. It’s that shadow story that really starts to reveal itself on repeated readings. It’s apparent that he has a firm grasp on that overall story and all of the story arcs that it encompasses.

No Dominion is still highly successful at continuing to walk that fine line of cross-genre writing. The balance of the writing never fails to impress and never falters for the duration of the novel. Huston is the real deal in a world of sometimes derivative fiction. He continues to challenge readers and deserves the largest possible audience. His stories are action packed and they present moral dilemmas that don’t offer easy resolution, you may disagree with how he handles a situation but you will never be disappointed. I’ve said it before and it bears repeating, the Joe Pitt casebooks is one of the most continually compelling series being written in fiction today.

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Here is a forum discussion that I was involved in regarding Huston’s portrayal of black characters, vampyres specifically, in No Dominion.

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Brian Lindenmuth

Brian is the non-fiction editor of Spinetingler magazine and one of the fiction editors of Snubnose Press. In addition to Spinetingler his work has appeared in Crimespree magazine and at BSC Review, Galleycat and the Mulholland Books website. He also heads the Spinetingler Award committee.

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About Brian Lindenmuth

Brian is the non-fiction editor of Spinetingler magazine and one of the fiction editors of Snubnose Press. In addition to Spinetingler his work has appeared in Crimespree magazine and at BSC Review, Galleycat and the Mulholland Books website. He also heads the Spinetingler Award committee.

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