Book Review – ‘Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter’ by Seth Grahame-Smith
Indiana, 1818. Moonlight falls through the dense woods that surround a one-room cabin, where a nine-year-old Abraham Lincoln kneels at his suffering mother’s bedside. She’s been stricken with something the old-timers call “Milk Sickness.” “My baby boy…” she whispers before dying.
Only later will the grieving Abe learn that his mother’s fatal affliction was actually the work of a vampire.
When the truth becomes known to young Lincoln, he writes in his journal, “henceforth my life shall be one of rigorous study and devotion. I shall become a master of mind and body. And this mastery shall have but one purpose…” Gifted with his legendary height, strength, and skill with an ax, Abe sets out on a path of vengeance that will lead him all the way to the White House.
While Abraham Lincoln is widely lauded for saving a Union and freeing millions of slaves, his valiant fight against the forces of the undead has remained in the shadows for hundreds of years. That is, until Seth Grahame-Smith stumbled upon The Secret Journal of Abraham Lincoln, and became the first living person to lay eyes on it in more than 140 years.
Using the journal as his guide and writing in the grand biographical style of Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCullough, Seth has reconstructed the true life story of our greatest president for the first time -all while revealing the hidden history behind the Civil War and uncovering the role vampires played in the birth, growth, and near-death of our nation…
I haven’t read Seth Grahame-Smith’s wildly popular ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance – Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!‘ novel yet, so my first introduction to this author would be via this fictional biography of Abraham Lincoln as a Vampire Hunter. I just picked this up on a lark, and really didn’t expect much when I started reading it. Somehow, I kinda expected the novel to be written tongue-in-cheek and funny / satirical OR as a thriller full of action scenes like with Buffy the Vampire Slayer (in line with the very silly plot) – so I was surprised to find out that the book is written VERY seriously, with a smooth blending of real-life Abe Lincoln history into the vampire fiction (via insterspersed entries from Abe’s fictional personal journal). It’s awfully well-researched, and I ended up going back to the real history books just to help ‘unconfuse’ me from fact versus fiction when I reached the chapters on the Civil War! The whole thing reads almost like it was a real serious biography of Abe Lincoln (in an alternate universe where he really was a vampire hunter). Totally did not expect that kind of treatment, so color me surprised.
Seth Grahame-Smith writes well and smoothly and the writing style / language is era-appropriate. You could almost believe that Abe Lincoln himself did pen those journal entries! I liked how there was this whole backstory explaining how Abe found out about the existence of vampires, how his hatred of them developed and how he ended up this bad-ass (but anonymous) vampire slayer with the help of, gasp, a vampire-mentor. And a big plus – I liked Seth’s version of vampires. None of that ‘Twilight’ nonsense – these are real predatorial killers who truly consider humans food! P.S. The photoshopped photos were a particularly nice touch – I liked the one showing the skull with fangs 🙂
My main problem with this book, I guess, is how it totally trivialized the horror of slavery in America and Abe Lincoln’s role in that part of history. I get that that was the whole point of the book, but I can see why certain readers would be disturbed by this aspect of the story. There’s also parts later in the book where Abraham Lincoln gets very passive and almost acts like he’s just going through the motions of what the puppet-masters (the ‘good’ vampires) wanted out of him (i.e. run for president). I just thought the latter part of the novel was very forced, with the author trying really hard to twist Civil War facts to fit with his story, and not quite succeeding. I much enjoyed the earlier chapters which were almost wholly fictional, starting with Abe as a child with those skillfully written backstories about his grandfather and father, and later, when an adult Abe Lincoln was just being a bad ass vampire slayer by night, and mild-mannered lawyer by day.
If you aren’t too offended by the author making slavery secondary to the vampire aspect, and if you like a good story about vampires in general, I actually highly recommend this book. It’s not boring at all, and I thought that Abe Lincoln’s noble character was still captured well by the author. It’s a pretty good way to pass the time 🙂
For a second opinion – here’s some reviews of Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter by other bloggers:
- Stevil – “With surprising depth and cleverness, Grahame-Smith interweaves the vampire yarn into the fabric of Lincoln’s life (and American history) “
- KEVIN REVIEWS THINGS – ” A tale of gore, fangs, blood and an axe-wielding president”
- Call Me Bookish – “this book is scarily convincing”