The last boomtime for vampire stories was about ten years ago. Books series like the True Blood and Twilight which then became movies and tv series ruled the airwaves and cinemas. And plenty of pretenders flowed in their wake. But they were just the longest in a line of vampire tales stretching at least as far back as Bram Stoker and probably further. So it is perhaps no surprise, after a short period of relative dormancy (driven into the shadows by zombie hordes perhaps?) that vampires are back.
A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising tells the story of the rise of the vampires (or Gloamings as they prefer to be known) and a small resistance movement against them. The story is delivered in documentary style. Following the discovery of a new virus by the CDC in New Mexico, each chapter is a form of testimony and many are also preceded by snippets from newspapers and magazines. While this gives a feeling of authenticity it also serves to distance the reader from the action. The narrative is almost all telling rather than showing, four hundred pages of exposition, an approach that wears thin after a while.
Villareal’s narrative is an original take on the vampire genre. There are lengthy chapters devoted to legal battles and there is a thread about a schism in the Catholic Church. Because, despite all of the medical terminology and discussion of viruses, the Gloamings are pretty classic vampires. They drink human blood, they sleep during the day, they live longer, have preternatural strength and speed, they can mesmerise humans and they die if they go out in the sunlight.
A People’s History is, if nothing else, an interesting reinvention of the genre. Villareal uses his narrative to explore how a small, powerful few can use existing structures and protections to manipulate the rest of humanity and get exactly what they want. That metaphoric aspect of this book is probably scarier than the Gloamings themselves.
This review first appeared in Aurealis #111, Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazine, www.aurealis.com.au.