The moment I saw this book in someone’s ARC pile earlier in the year I made a mental note to get my hands on it for my Halloween reviews. With a name like that how could I not? Officially released in June 2018, this is the debut novel of author Raymond A. Villareal.
The book opens as a young Center for Disease Control agent is sent to investigate a pair of unusual deaths in an Arizona border town, only to learn upon arrival that the corpses seem to have walked away. The agent and her team soon realize they are at ground zero for the outbreak of a disease they call the NOBI virus, an affliction of the blood that effectively turns those affected into vampires. Dubbed “Gloamings,” this new group of people begin their struggle to win over the hearts and minds (not to mention blood) of humanity. Extraordinarily well-funded and highly selective about expanding their ranks, the Gloamings work quickly to exert their influence in human society. Using a combination of social influencers and political bribes, their ambitions rapidly move away from mundane goals like access to basic services and protections under the American Disability Act into more nefarious criminal and world domination schemes. The book tracks the progression of these endeavors through a series of POV chapters told from the perspective of the CDC agent who discovered the outbreak, the head of a FBI task force formed to investigate Gloaming criminal activity, and a Jesuit priest working to combat the Gloaming infiltration of the Catholic Church.
While I thought this book had an interesting premise and some amusing social satire, I ultimately found it falling a bit short of my expectations. Although the characters and overall story were interesting enough, the flow of the book was a bit choppy. There was a sufficient amount of action and intrigue to keep things interesting, but the story as a whole lacked a cohesive context in which to place the events of each chapter. With chapters skipping months at a time and only loosely connected to each other I was often left thinking “so what?” when seemingly major developments where either glossed over or abandoned shortly thereafter. Unfortunately that sentiment stuck with me upon finishing the book as well since it did not offer much in the way of resolution to the any of the main conflicts presented and stopped rather abruptly. At the end of its 400+ pages, I was left feeling that story just kind of rambled on without really going anywhere.
Similarly, the questions raised regarding civil rights for Gloamings, a key advertising point and a central theme of the earlier chapters, were non-starters for me as well. The reader is never given a clear view of the social dynamics at play in this world and most of the insights into the causes being taken up were presented through dry court documents that were far too easy to skip over. Since we were never introduced to any even remotely sympathetic or everyday Gloaming characters, the issues they were pushing for seemed inconsistent with what we were told about their secretive and elitist population.
Despite my misgivings, I did stick through with this to the end since more often than not the chapters were intriguing enough as standalone adventures and I was stubbornly holding out hope for some sort of big payoff or revelation. I don’t know if perhaps my expectations were out of line for what the book was, but I ultimately felt neutral/bordering on disappointed about this one. I can’t say that I’d recommend it, but if you’re intrigued I wouldn’t warn you off it either.