The NOBI virus, a new disease quickly spreading across the globe is turning infected humans into 'Gloamings' – people who are adverse to the sunlight, hypnotically charming, and thirsty as hell.
Image: Raymond A. Villareal via www.raymondavillareal.com
Raymond A. Villareal’s A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising is set in modern day America sans the Trump Presidency. Two dead bodies are found in Nogales, an Arizona town near the Mexican border. Nothing appears too suspicious, until one of the dead bodies reanimates in the night and walks out of the morgue.
The local Sherriff and the town’s coroner, Dr Gomez, are obviously nervous. Dr Lauren Scott, a rookie Research Physician at Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is dispatched to Nogales to investigate the unusual occurrence.
The missing corpse showed ‘unusual hemophilia bruising and intradermal contusions over ninety percent of the body’. Soon the second body disappears from the morgue, but luckily not before Dr Scott has taken tissue samples.
The samples yield what appears to be an unknown virus – soon dubbed the Nogales organic blood illness (or 'NOBI virus' for short) but largely ignored by most US authorities. Even senior staff at the CDC don’t think much of it – until small groups and individuals across America ‘contract’ the NOBI virus and resurface as ‘Gloamings’ with a discreet thirst for human blood.
A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising is a fast-paced narrative covering four and a half years and 'documenting' the spread of the virus. Billed as ‘panoramic fictional oral history’, the story is told from several first person points of view, including the doctors studying the virus; FBI agent Hugo Zumthor, who has to deal with bodies drained of blood; and crazed Jesuit brother, Fr. John Reilly.
Interspersed throughout the narrative are realistic documentations of fictional police reports, New York Post articles, and even extracts from the US House of Representative Committee on Homeland Security, One Hundred and Seventeenth Congress First Sessions, Serial No. 117-20.
This writing device allows for authoritative storytelling where the ‘facts’ are presented to the reader in dry, didactic language, enabling the fantastical tale of charming blood-sucking vampires to seem plausible in our everyday world. It also gives the reader much to dwell on, with factors like Gloamings’ rights and human rights thoroughly explored.
While enjoyable, Villareal’s writing style is dense and at times chaotic. He finds real strength in the pages-long academic documentations, which comes as no surprise when one learns the author is a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, and is a practicing attorney. But while the world is well detailed, characters – both human and gloaming – feel underdeveloped and hard to sympathise with. Consequently, some aspects of character development, such as a wedding late in proceedings, seem almost random in their presentation.
A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising is an interesting concept, and may translate better for the screen. The film rights have already been snapped up. However, for this reader, empathy for the main characters is a necessity, whether they’re blood suckers or not.
Rating: 3 stars ★★★
A People's History of the Vampire Uprising
BY Raymond A. Villareal
Trade paperback, RRP $29.99
29 May, 2018
First published on
What the stars mean?
- Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
- Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
- Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
- Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
- Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
- Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
- Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
- One star: Awful, to be avoided
- Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level