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A PEOPLES HISTORY OF THE VAMPIRE UPRISING ****

Written by Raymond A. Villareal. RRP: 7.99.

Out now from Titan Books.

 

For anyone out there who ever read Richard Matheson's phenomenal I AM LEGEND, I'm happy to go on record and say that despite the entire book being a masterpiece, it's final chapters as when it really comes into its own. The idea presented in those shocking last moments is a profoundly chilling one, opening so many societal and existential questions. Shockingly - it also seems to be the part of the book most discarded when being adapted, usually dropped in favour of turning Matheson's vampires into albino-cultists or bald CGI zombies in need of hair replacements. It's unfortunate because the book itself has become, like its title, legendary. It also has strong connections to the subject of this review as, upon reading Raymond A. Villareal's: A PEOPLES HISTORY OF THE VAMPIRE UPRISING, I couldn't help but be reminded of those final, incredible moments. Like Matheson's work, Villareal also had me chilled to my core.

 

A PEOPLES HISTORY OF THE VAMPIRE UPRISING is built around the intriguing idea of a faux 'history' of a world besieged by a plague of Vampire like creatures ('Gloamings') entering into society. Rather than go the usual route of introducing the vampires as vicious monsters that savage their way through society, maiming and killing, then having the survivors fend them off in a bitter fight for survival- Villareal does things a little differently. Instead, the Gloamings, rise to prominence in society, have their own sites and areas and come under attack from Gloaming focussed terrorist groups. The imagery is not always subtle, but one wonders of Villareal are even trying to be. All of this is told to the viewer through the concept of a fake "people's history", our 'Historian' even opening with a brief discussion on Historiography. Having studied history, myself (and currently working within the Historical sector), I found this endlessly fascinating. The possibilities conjured by this concept alone make the imagination run wild.

Which leads me neatly onto Villareal's greatest strength- his imagination and his capability to capture his unique ideas on the page. The comparisons to contemporary times are well realised and not half-baked or underdeveloped, far harder than it sounds for a book so grounded in socio-political issues. Not only that but the moral dilemmas posed genuinely make it challenging to pick a side, this isn't Dracula. There is no one single 'evil' force symbolised by a lone vampire, hunted by a brave pack of heroes. Nor is it TWILIGHT, these vampires (while certainly having an appeal- one of the main driving points) aren't 'sexy'- there just like people.

 

Unfortunately, if I had to lay one criticism at the novel, I think it is possible to argue that Villareal does not always explore the uniqueness of his format as much as he could. Footnotes, which are used intermittently to examine aspects of our world and how these changed, seem to be thrown in at random. As does the differing 'sources' (obituaries, oral histories), relying more and more on characters single descriptions. One wonders if Villareal was attempting to mimic Bram Stoker's approach to 'Dracula', with a variety of different sources telling the story. An intriguing approach, not always fully realised.

 

All in all, A PEOPLES HISTORY OF THE VAMPIRE UPRISING, is a creepy little take on the Vampire sub-genre that pushes its subject matter into new and intriguing areas. As a first novel, it shows Villareal as a figure to watch out for. Yes, there may be a few issues here in the telling of the narrative, but on the whole, the book cannot be called anything else other than a success. As a result, I, for one, will be eagerly looking out for what Villareal does next. An autobiography of Bigfoot perhaps?

 

Callum McKelvie

 

 

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