I’ve been waiting so very long for a full length novel featuring Carlos Delacruz, who works for the New York Council for the Dead. I first met Carlos in Older’s magnificent story collection Salsa Nocturna and so, of course, I couldn’t wait to dig into this. A bit of history: Carlos is an inbetweener, both alive and dead, and he has very little memory of who he was before he “died” and went to work for the Council. It makes for a bit of a lonely life, although he does value his friends and coworkers. When the book opens, Carlos gets orders to take out a man named Trevor that is threatening the stability of an entrada (an entrance into the underworld), and he does, not knowing that this will lead him into some rather startling revelations about his past, not to mention a very powerful sorcerer, Sarco, that seeks to destroy the barrier between the living and the dead.
If you know Daniel José Older’s work, then you know how he writes. I imagine he writes like he plays music, with a lyrical quality that is nearly impossible to tear yourself away from. Carlos is the narrator, and he wears his pain on his sleeve, his loneliness always palpable. And yet, he’s not afraid to fight the good fight, and his sarcasm is as sharp as a freshly stropped razor, as is his sense of humor. I don’t want to give too much away, but suffice it to say that Carlos does find clues about his past, and meets a woman that may have the key to his future. First though, he’s got to take care of a pretty nasty imp infestation that seems to be directly associated with Sarco. Those imps are nasty business, and the first time we meet one is, well, you’ll see. I’ve never quite read anything like it. The imagery is so twisted. So very, very twisted.
New York has long been considered a colorful, richly diverse city, but Older’s magical rendering makes it something very special indeed, full of ghosts, soul catchers, and many other otherworldly delights and monstrosities. It makes for a very creepy and exciting mix, daubed with shades of melancholy, and even some very clever horror elements, and the ending will leave you reeling. I can’t recommend this book, or this author, highly enough. This is what urban fantasy is all about, and when you start this, allow some time to finish, because you won’t want to come up for air until you do....more
You can read my Library Journal review here (check it out under Editorial Reviews or, if you have a subscription to LJ's review database, you can checYou can read my Library Journal review here (check it out under Editorial Reviews or, if you have a subscription to LJ's review database, you can check it out there as well): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/broke......more
I know what you’re thinking (or might be thinking): ugh, vampires, soooo done to death (sorry about that). But bear with me, here. We’re talking about Christopher Buehlman, author of Those Across the River, The Necromancer’s House, and Between Two Fires. This man has a very solid history of excellence, so when I saw that The Lesser Dead was a vampire tale, I didn’t hesitate for even a second.
Joey Peacock looks eternally 14, but is actually in his 50s in 1978 New York City. He is, of course, also a vampire. He’s more than a bit cocky, considers himself a ladies man, and loves to look sharp. Well, as sharp as one can possibly look when their home is in the tunnels that run under the city. That’s ok, though, because Joey can glamour a victim in the blink of an eye. He has a family, of sorts, consisting mainly of Margaret (their tough as nails leader), and the elderly Cvetko, who harbors a fatherly affection for Joey. There are others, but they play the biggest parts in Joey’s life (or undeath). By 1978, Joey has fallen into a bit of a routine, and even has a family (mom, dad, son) that he regularly charms and feeds from. It may not be the ideal life, but it’s all he has, and if a bit of ennui has set in, well…that’s about to change. Margaret’s group has always been fairly careful to avoid killing their victims (which they call “peeling”), mainly to keep the cops off their scent as opposed to any real sense of moral responsibility. However, when they discover a feral pack of child vampires that not only kill, but play with their victims like a cat plays with a mouse, they must decide what to do about this very serious problem.
The first half of the book mainly covers Joey’s history with the vamps; how he got turned, the events leading up to that, and a rundown of vamp politics and the occasional turf skirmishes that Margaret takes care of with her signature ruthlessness. Joey’s narration is pragmatic and more than a hint of the 14 year old boy that he once was shines through. Frankly, he’s a bit of a twerp, and very frequently uses his innocent looks (and a high pitched voice) to get what he wants. But…give Joey a chance. Trust me on this one. When he meets the little vamps, he’s actually pretty horrified at what they’ve done, and what they do (it’s really, REALLY icky) but they tell a compelling, and even tragic story, and Joey’s protective side begins to emerge. Margaret isn’t as easily convinced, and she’s determined to get rid of them before they call unwanted attention to the underground colony.
These kids are fantastically creepy, especially the lone female, and if you think Margaret and Co. can be vicious, you ain’t seen nothing yet. There are absolutely no sparkly vamps here, and underneath Joey’s veneer of swagger, there’s a thread of melancholy that’s unmistakable. This book surprised the hell out of me-not at how good it was, because it’s very, very good. That wasn’t surprising at all. I was shocked at how attached I actually got to Joey, and how he managed to make me care about Margaret and the rest of his vamps (she was human too, once, and her story is heartbreaking.) Speaking of heartbreaking, I was blown away at how arresting this book, and these characters are, and how I never could have seen it coming. I’m not going to tell you what “it” is, but suffice it to say it will wow you, I hope, because it certainly wowed me. Buehlman is a master, and his lovely writing only underscores the brutality, and sometimes futility and sadness of these vamps’ lives. They really are doing the best they can with what they are. Think of that what you will, but don’t miss this book. The Lesser Dead is shades of The Lost Boys and Near Dark wrapped up in Buehlman’s very distinctive, very unique touch, and it’s fantastic. This man can’t write ‘em fast enough for me, and I can’t wait to see what he’s got up his sleeve next!...more