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No Dominion

By:Charlie Huston

Charlie Huston

No Dominion

Charlie Huston

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.

Joe Pitt 02

To Bob Wilkins

and the Friday night

Creature Features.

Thanks for keeping me up late

and scaring the crap out of me.


That’s not the surprising thing; the surprising thing is that it didn’t shatter when he threw me against it. Shouldn’t come as a shock. This place, they went through a few front windows the first year they were open and decided it was more cost-effective to lay out the extra cash for the safety glass. Save them from having to replace it every time there’s a brawl in here. Which is pretty regular I’d imagine. Any case, I’m not bitching. Wasn’t for the guy who had the bright idea, I’d be on the sidewalk right now, my good leather jacket cut to ribbons and my face sliced up in all kinds of new and interesting ways. But now it’s breaking, it is most definitely breaking. I’m sure about that because my face is jammed up against it. The big question for me is whether this is the kind of safety glass that bursts into thousands of tiny pebbles when it breaks or the kind that turns into shards. Pebbles would be fine. Shards, not so much. The window creaks. Tiny fissures appear in front of my eyes.

OK, time to stop worrying about the glass, time to start worrying about getting this guy off of me. I can’t expect any help from the bartenders or the crowd, not after they watched him pound on the bouncer with that pool cue. And I don’t see any helpful officers of the law rolling up outside at this point. Not that I have any intention of being here when the cops show up. So, I guess it’s just me and him. That’s OK, I can go this one alone. Not like it’s new to me or anything. I just wish he really was on PCP; if it was just PCP he’d be pretty easy to deal with. But this? This is gonna take grace and style, maybe even a little tact.

He shoves my face harder into the big front window. People out on the sidewalk flinch as they see my features squashed yet flatter against the glass. The glass creaks again. The fissures grow another millimeter. He’s still screaming, babbling insanity at the top of his lungs, howling so loud I can barely hear Boxcar Willie on the jukebox:

You load sixteen tons and what do you get?

Another day older, and deeper in debt.

Ain’t that the fuckin’ truth.

He’s enraged that my face won’t just explode through the damn glass the way he wants it to. He rears back, and before he can slam my face forward, I’ve slipped to my right, spun, twisted my arm free of his grasp, winced as a clump of hair is torn from the back of my scalp, planted my right foot in the hollow behind his right knee, hammered my elbow into the back of his neck and sent him face first through the window in my place. The sidewalk audience scatters as he hits the pavement. I step through the dagger-edged hole he left behind. Shards it is.

He was spazzing the second he came out of the bathroom.

Before that, I hadn’t even noticed him. Why should I? Not like I’m working; not like there’s any reason I should be doing anything but paying attention to the booze in my glass, the cigarette in my mouth, the pool game in front of me and the girl by my side. Especially the girl. Girl like this, most everyone in the place is paying attention to her. Want to be invisible? Hang out with a girl like Evie. All that red hair, the body that not only won’t quit but works weekends and holidays, too. That smile. She’s the kind of girl guys like to look at, but most aren’t sure how to go about approaching her. Too bad for them. They miss out on the best part, they miss out on how cool she is, how funny, how sharp, how down-to-earth. Anyway, a girl like Evie on your arm and you turn into a shadow, just the lucky fuck taking up space next to the best view in the place.

So a night like this, when it’s so cold out Evie is wearing her leather pants and that tight old thermal top with the Jack Daniel’s label silk-screened across the front, a night like this where she’s glued to my hip and every guy in the place wishes he was me, is it any surprise I didn’t smell him the moment he came through the door?

Most nights I would have picked up his scent right off. Couldn’t miss it. After all, he smells just like me, only different. But what with the Early Times I’m pouring down my throat and the Luckys I’m sucking on and Evie rubbing up against me, I just can’t be bothered. Still, he couldn’t have been in here all that long. Sooner or later I would have smelled him no matter how distracted I was. It wouldn’t have meant trouble necessarily; we would have eyeballed each other a bit, sniffed each other’s asses like a couple of big dogs, but there wouldn’t have been any trouble, not in here, not where everyone can see us. That shit just doesn’t happen. As it was, I was lining up a neat little combo that was gonna let me run out the rest of the table and he came out of the john and started spazzing out.

This wasn’t your run-of-the-mill junkie-who-just-shot-up-in-the-can stumbling around. He came out of there like the Tasmanian Devil: spinning, arms flailing, kicking anything that came in range, sending tables and people flying; a full on spaz. A space quickly opened up around him while he whirled and gibbered and foamed at the mouth. The bouncer, a nice enough guy goes by Gears, came over and tried a little sweet talk.