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My Dead Body by Charlie Huston

01/03/2010. Contributed by Sue Davies

Buy My Dead Body in the USA - or Buy My Dead Body in the UK

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pub: Del Rey/Ballantine Books. 315 page small enlarged paperback. Price: $14.00 (US), $17.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-345-49589-1 (pub: Orbit. 300 page small enlarged paperback. Price: 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84149-682-5)

There are thirteen stories and to go through them all one by one would involve a tedious repetition of superlatives. Suffice to say they are all good and several are excellent. A short tale about Judge Corey and a whale entitled 'Leviathan's Farewell' is probably the best in the book and also the best story of any kind I've read for a while. It should have won awards. 'Engram' is a longer story which gives us and Anderson revelations about her childhood. Very moving stuff for a 'comic'.

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Joe Pitt was definitely dead. Well dead enough, dead man walking. Joe Pitt was dying in stages and losing body parts, so many, so fast. It was hard to believe he could still stand up.

He was also in hiding. He thought he couldn't sink any lower but there are places that even the rats don't want to live in. There are deep, dark places in New York City. A place where no one would come looking. Except they do and Joe doesn't want to be found. He doesn't want to raise his head out of the mire long enough to care. But he does care, that's his real problem and when the girl's name is invoked he can't refuse.

It might be love, it's certainly power. It'd definitely was guilt. He brought her into the power of the Vyrus and he's still trying to save her. He wants to think there might be a future even if it sounds impossible.

He's had the Vyrus so long its part of his dark soul but he knows that there is even more to it than that. He's caught a glimpse of his dark heart. He's coming to realise that the virus is not something external but is part of him. What Joe saw in the feeding factory in Queens has marked him, too, and what he didn't do about it has marked him out to others. They all think they've got Joe Pitt's number.

Once again, Charlie Huston's driven his hero down into the ground and it's very hard to see if there is any genuine light at the end of this tunnel. Oddly, it doesn't come across as depressing but it's funny how hard we try to relate to an almost non-human protagonist. He is the hard-boiled detective who has been baked and fried as well. He's also partly Camus' anti-hero who seeks annihilation if he can't make sense out of the stench of his existence.

As we seek to apply our own morality to the map of Joe's life, we apply our own patterns and expectations onto the narrative only to be constantly smacked in the face. Vampires might be trendy in fiction but this is a more visceral and dirty world than the fashion-conscious pretty boys in other tales.

'My Dead Body' is gripping and the whole thing ends with some very nasty stuff which deals with Joe's existence. What we look for is some kind of ending, happy or not, but it looks like there is more to come and none of it fits into anything that might equate to a human type of happiness. It's clever, thoughtful and occasionally visceral and it's head and heart above all other vampire fiction.

Sue Davies

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This book has 396 votes in the sci-fi charts

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