OTTAWA (CUP) 8212; Abraham Lincoln was one awesome president. He was freakishly tall (for his time), wore top hats, was the first president with a beard 8212; oh, and he freed the slaves. There’s only one thing that could make old Abe any cooler than he already is, and author Seth Grahame-Smith knows exactly what that is.
In a followup to his wildly successful 2009 novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Grahame-Smith is back with his latest literary mash-up Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
The story, which is surprisingly historically accurate, revolves around Lincoln 8212; a gangly, awkward, kind-hearted kid from Kentucky, who grows up to lead America through its Civil War, uniting a country and ending slavery in the process. What the rest of the world doesn’t know, and what the fictional work claims, is that there was a deeper, uglier, supernatural aspect to Lincoln’s life that haunted him until his last moments on Earth, promoting slavery and wishing to see the secession of the South from the Union 8212; vampires.
With careful attention to detail, Grahame-Smith recounts Lincoln’s entire life, creatively weaving in a vampire-themed subplot that blends well into the story. The author partners supernatural themes with major points in Abe’s life such as his mother’s death, his election into the Illinois State Assembly, and major events in the American Civil War.
The novel starts off with a promising introduction to the fictional aspect of the story, explaining how the author came across a set of authentic, undiscovered journals through a strange acquaintance (Henry the Vampire) who asked him to write the true story of Lincoln and the American Civil War. The author fills in the details of Lincoln’s epic vampire-killing life using the evidence he “finds” in the fictional journals, which detail every major event in Lincoln’s life 8212; from his childhood, to his work as a vampire hunter, up to his eventual presidency.
Grahame-Smith does a great job jumping into the plot. He introduces the vampire aspect with relative ease and little backstory, but what starts out as a promising story ends up falling apart midway through the novel. The central concept of the book ends up as its major failure: instead of an action-packed, humour-filled adventure of Honest Abe kicking ass, all the reader is given is Grahame-Smith taking himself too seriously and turning the book into a detailed epistolary novel. As a result, the work ends up as little more than a slightly entertaining Lincoln biography.
Although it can be argued that the subject matter (American Civil War, slavery) may require a certain level of creative restraint, the main concept of the book is Lincoln killing vampires 8212; so more humour, adventure and ass-kicking would have been greatly appreciated.
Such a fantastic concept could have been made better by taking a less sincere and more fictional perspective, rather than sacrificing entertainment value to produce a historically accurate story.
That being said, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is still worth the money, if for nothing more than to see how well Grahame-Smith deftly fuses the concept of the American Civil War and the blood-sucking undead into a decent book.