Half the Blood of Brooklyn, by Charlie Huston

zachb's review

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adventurous dark fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


peterseanesq's review

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Please give my Amazon review a helpful vote -

Urban Fantasy - Gritty Noire - Rogue Vampire

Joe Pitt is a vampire, or, rather, a vampyre. The "y" is because vampirism - the desire/need for blood, the strength and durability, the eternal youth - is caused by a virus, called the "vyrus." In Manhattan, the infected live in the shadows and are organized into "clans" that police their territories, making sure that the human herd is not over-exploited and that the secret of the vyrus does not get out where it can panic normal humans.

This book does not give Joe Pitts' origin story. That story was provided in the previous books - this the third book in the "Joe Pitts, the two prior being "Already Dead" and "No Dominion." I strongly recommend that you start with the beginning. If you start here you will probably spend a lot of time wondering what is going on. Author Charlie Huston has layered his world with detail, and some of the details are going to make more sense if you know what's going. For example, there is a subplot about Amanda and Sela that we can figure out the background of in this book, but knowing the background is probably more satisfying. I read this book around seven years ago. I was surprised at how much I'd forgotten. I remembered the key points, but there were large parts I didn't remember at all. So, I had some of the experience of a new reader. I, obviously, need to go back and fill in the first two books.

This book starts with Joe ensconced as Security Chief for the Society. The Society is an extremely left-wing clan occupying southern Manhattan, which has a hippy leader, Terry Bird, and a large faction of LGBTQ vampyres led by Lydia. Joe has a longstanding relationship with Terry and we are given to understand that in a prior book Joe took over the position of the previous Security Chief. Joe also has a relationship with the Enclave - a clan of warrior-monk vampyres - and the Dusters - a motorcycle gang. The Society is opposed to the Coalition, which seems to be the mafia of the vampyre world, as well as being the heavy hitters of this world.

The story opens with a blood dealer murdered and cut into pieces. At the same time, clans from Brooklyn are desperately trying to flee Brooklyn into Manhattan. Joe gets tasked by Terry to take Lydia and negotiate with a Brooklyn clan known as the Freaks to amalgamate with the Society. Joe and Lydia enter darkest Brooklyn by night and deal with the Freaks - literal circus freaks - and are kidnapped by vampire Orthodox Jews, the Chosen. From there the story is a cycle of violence involving revenge and settling scores. Through it all, Joe mostly wants to take care of his girlfriend Evie, who is dying of AIDS.

The story is exciting and fast-moving. I didn't find Joe to be a particularly engaging character. He is mostly monosyllabic and conceals most of his thinking in classic pulp noir style. Huston has a James Joyce style of indicating dialogue with dash marks and no tags, so we get a telegraphic style without a lot of information being provided. All in all, I thought it worked.

I particularly liked the character of the Rebbe. I mostly liked the world that Huston created. As I said, it is complicated and layered. Huston's plot keeps a lot of balls in the air and I enjoyed watching his performance. The story is gritty, grim and bloody, far more like Hammett than the nice and safe urban fantasy that floods the market. So be advised if you are looking for a nicer version of urban fantasy, you may find this to be disturbing.

csdaley's review

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Quick read which I enjoyed. Although never as much as I think I am going to. I will keep reading the series though.

rsurban's review

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Completely satisfying and well written

valfreya's review

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the lone wolf protagonist, who turns down all offers and insults everyone, never makes sense to me. you always know that he'll be right in the end, that the people he's flipping off are eventually going to be revealed as (even more) corrupt and evil (than already suspected), but it means that along the way they take a lot more punishment than I could tolerate. but I guess it's different when you're a vampire. hmm. anyway, I read #2 in the series like four years ago, so it took me a while to figure out who everyone was and what was going on. pretty much everyone is angry and/or homicidal, and there are many graphic descriptions of injuries. the different factions are really interesting - there's so much maneuvering and machination, and it was fascinating to think about where things might be going (in the future of the series, even). I really appreciated that. every character has a distinct pattern of speech, but unfortunately, that's expressed through pages and pages of each character ranting about their own ideology, with all the "mans" and "likes" and stutters. it reads like a script. maybe that's authentic and gritty.

carol26388's review

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"--Well, just threaten a man, why can't you? You make it all complicated like that and I sometimes don't know what I got to do to keep from getting slapped around... I appreciate the benefit of the doubt and all, Joe, but really, man, unless I'm high you really shouldn't count on me thinking too straight."

It's always nice to be clear when you are trying to get information.

The third in the Joe Pitt series was a little harder to get into, but that could have been my lingering dyspepsia after a political-talk filled lunch with pops... maybe call it a three-and-a-half star read, to be re-read in a better mood. Frankly, I thought my aggravation would have been well suited to Joe Pitt. This book is a lot more violent, with quite a few more entrenched New York stereotypes, a greater freak factor, and a more unlikeable lead. Manhattan Vampyres are starting to cast their gazes outside the island, investigating the prospect of alliances. Terry wants to send Joe to Brooklyn for a meet. Joe is tormented over Evie and doesn't know which way to turn. He starts grasping at straws, and it's never pleasant when people become desperate, hoping for the miracle.

I won't summarize, but I want to remember that I found the Freaks disgusting, and the Jewish clan severely retrograde. Frankly, it puzzles me. Were the scenes in the other books equally farcical and I missed the point? I remember the aura of danger in Joe's prior confrontations, but this cross between Jewish Vampyres and redneck marriage clans just seemed... silly. Joe's escape strategy smacks of one used before, in a prior book. .

Still, it's a good read. The stark dialogue captures my attention and is one of the strengths of Huston's style. The description of Joe stopping in for late-night snacks at a bodega was hauntingly real, and then ruthless. Then there are the scenes at the Enclave with Daniel. Huston surprised me there, but perhaps I should have expected his bleak vision to win out. Like an abused dog, Joe is repeatedly biting the hands that are reached out to him, and it gets a little hard to witness him hurting. I also tend to get annoyed when plot points hinge on someone not sharing information. In this case, there's no obvious reason for Joe not to share with the Society, except sheer obstinance. This feels a little like a mid-series book with a number of plot lines left incomplete, so I'm anxious to get the last two and see where this story goes.

Book four:

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