Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
by Seth Grahame-Smith
A mysterious stranger gave author Seth Grahame-Smith the opportunity of a lifetime when he entrusted him with Abraham Lincoln's secret diaries, which revealed that America's sixteenth president was a secret vampire hunter.
After his mother is killed by a vampire, a young Abe Lincoln swears to eradicate the fanged menace from the United States. Under the tutelage of Henry Sturges, a friendly vampire who decides to help Lincoln because he's “too interesting to kill,” Lincoln learns the ins and outs of finding and slaying the undead. When he learns that the institution of slavery attracts vampires to America and provide them with a ready source of sustenance, Lincoln vows to end the injustice. His singular quest to eradicate the vampire menace eventually takes him to the White House and sends the country spiraling into the Civil War.
So I knew that the best thing this book had going for it was the title. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter just sounds freakin' awesome. Beyond that, I didn't know what to expect.
The author imitates the grand, sweeping style of Lincoln biographies, and at first I thought it was pretty amusing. Unfortunately, Seth Grahame-Smith never wrote a complete sentence if he could help it, and his paragraphs are riddled with subject-less fragments. For example:
This was the chance he'd ached for those four long years. The chance to test his skills. His tools. The chance to feel the exhilaration of watching a vampire fade away at his feet. Seeing the fear in its eyes. (p. 63)
Well, that's not so bad, you may be thinking. It wouldn't be, if there wasn't a paragraph like this on *every*single*page*. The 'excerpts' from Lincoln's diaries are also written in the same style, which is a bummer – it doesn't sound like convincing Lincoln pastiche at all. By the halfway point of the novel, it was driving me nuts.
But that's a personal hang up, really, just one of my stylistic preferences. How was the story itself? Grahame-Smith follows a rough outline of Lincoln's life, which was fun to read. There were problems, though. Many of Lincoln's activities seems to be motivated by revenge, and he takes everything Sturges tells him at face value. This doesn't seem to match the historical Lincoln's reputation for avoiding causing harm to others, and constant search for answers. In fact, parts of the story tended to clash with not just the historical record, but the Graham-Smith version of 1860s America. At one point, Lincoln complains that every politician in Washington knows about vampires, talking about them in public. Yet at the beginning of his Presidency, he reveals the secret of vampires to his cabinet and their reaction is “OMFG WUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUT???”
The other thing that really disappointed me was that the years of Lincoln's life that I find most interesting – say 1855 on, as he's starting to really get into gear politically and then leading the country as President – were sped through extremely quickly. Very rushed and choppy. I mean, I liked the early years of Lincoln and thought the vampire hunting was integrated very well into his young adulthood, but I wanted more of his maturity, too.
Is this fun? Well, yes. But I'll be honest, you might as well just wait for the inevitable movie version because Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter seems like a story that will play much better on the big screen than it did in the pages of this book.
3 out of 5 stars