A title like A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising suggests a story that is way cool, with lots of spine-chilling action and armies of vampires and vampire slayers. Of course, we think we know who wins in the end. But Raymond A. Villareal’s novel doesn’t quite work like that. His tale is a little disturbing, and that’s a good thing. It functions somewhat as an allegory: The vampires are the 1 percent and everyone else is, well, everyone else.
In Villareal’s world, vampirism is the result of a plain old virus—though there’s nothing plain about a virus that imparts superhuman speed and strength, a greatly lengthened life span, infertility and the obligation to drink human blood and stay out of the sun. Like the vampirism of folklore, the condition is passed along via a bite, a practice that the vampires, who call themselves Gloamings, are reluctant to talk about. But that’s pretty much the only thing they’re modest about. Determined to take over the world, they’re choosy about who they “recreate.” The lucky few tend to be rich and powerful. Folks from the 99 percent are exsanguinated before their bodies are dumped in roadside ditches, or they’re kept on “farms” as a ready blood supply.
Villareal brilliantly and stealthily examines how Gloamings have abandoned being human. Amoral in ways that normals can’t comprehend, the Gloamings only act to advance their situation. This might mean donating blood to sick children, getting Gloaming-friendly legislation passed or murdering political opponents or anyone who’s in their way. These creatures use the levers of government, society and religion to get what they want. And a lot of people fall for it. This becomes the new normal.
A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising is an unsettling book. It’s also a warning.