Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith
pre-note: this was my hurricane Irma read – as in the book I read during those days of waiting and waiting – either for the storm to come or the electricity to return. I finished it rather quickly; but I think it’s a quick read, storm or no storm.
It’s also the most ridiculous sounding premise, am I right? Well, it was that ridiculousness that drew me to first the movie (which didn’t grab me) and then the book which was sent to me by Lainy at So Many Books, So Little Time (thanks, Lainy) after we ‘met’ in the Facebook Book Connectors group. Point for Team The Book is Always Better than the Movie because Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a delightful mash-up (think Linkin Park and Jay-Z’s Numb/Encore) in which two genres collide and lose nothing of themselves in so doing. In this case, it’s historical fiction melding believably-ish with historical fantasy of the horror variety (i.e. vampires). It shouldn’t work (and I still think it doesn’t in the movie) but in this book, it does.
This is a fun, quick read and, at times, a wild, action packed ride, at times soberingly cost-heavy, but, most especially, never dull. Though you know the history, Lincoln being one of the more monumental figures in American history, it’s not predictable and is even plausible once you suspend your disbelief about the whole vampires existing thing (a stretch for some people, I know, but Anne Rice’s Vampire chronicles is already one of my favourite series so perhaps not so much of a leap for me). You might find nits to pick if you’re a Lincoln historian (but I’m not, so any jarring breaches of history flew by me). That and that aside, if you’re game, you’ll enjoy the ride.
Inserting vampire lore into the civil war and all its implications does risk trivializing one of the central chapters in American and particularly African-American history – the premise being that the war wasn’t really about emancipation or states rights (if that’s your read on it) but potentially the enslavement of all humankind (and in particular white people; making, per the logic of the book, for higher stakes). As a black person, it’s uncomfortable riding with that premise, your cousins’ struggle for freedom (kin to your own over here in the Caribbean) merely theatre (that plus the vampires being driven out to south America and other parts of the world being seen as an acceptable outcome don’t sit right), but… nah there is no but; I was never comfortable with that aspect of it.
As a read though, it was a good romp with seemingly solid historical grounding, a nuanced and interesting main character, an endearing vamp-human friendship, huge stakes… and rather ordinary vampires (no sparkles or rock stars here just inhumanly fast and strong immortals driven by some of humanity’s worst instincts) and that in itself is refreshing.
The main page of my Blogger on Books lV series can be found here. The main page of Blogger on Books V can be found here. To check out my books and see what reviewers and readers have been saying about them, go here and here.