Book Review: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
A word about my reviews (if you’ve read this before, skip to the review!):
My reviews are intended for those specifically who have read the novel and are looking for a place to read another’s take on the book and to also share their own thoughts. I don’t particularly like to read a recap of the story’s premise and who is who, etc, in reviews so you won’t find anything like that here. Unless I must explain a bit of premise detail in my review to give context to a thought or idea, I keep recaps to a bare minimum, if at all.
My thoughts on the books I read are by no means meant to be objective. I try to give an accurate portrait of what I experienced from reading this novel, what themes came to surface, in addition to what I liked and disliked about the book.
If you are curious about the book without having read it and would like to read my review- by all means! But please be forewarned that my reviews may contain spoilers.
Review: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith
If you are looking for a campy and effortless read with a clever premise, then stick with this book. If you are looking for a captivating and thrilling read, you may want to look elsewhere.
This title kept popping up in my “recommendations for you” feed on my Goodreads homepage and I finally couldn’t resist adding it my list, if only out of sheer curiosity for something a little bit different. It’s not the type of fiction I normally go for- I’m not a huge sci-fi/fantasy/vampire or zombie fiction person, though I have read a few books in the genre. I remember when “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” was all the rage a few years back, but I was never tempted until now to delve into this “alt-history” genre specifically because I ADORE historical fiction and I have a hard time enjoying a book that strays too far from the actual truth, even if it’s meant to be a fun romp.
“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” is a romp, and at times, a fun one. It’s always entertaining, but it’s never truly gripping, though I think it was meant to be, and that’s the main reason why I wouldn’t really recommend this book to anyone else, unless you are in serious need of a quick and easy fluffy book. If you have read my review of “In the Woods” by Tana French, I would call this type of book “an inbetweener”. I have to admit, I did find the introduction chapter the most thrilling of the entire novel, and I wish wish WISH the author had stuck with writing the book from his first hand account discovering more about Lincoln’s vampire hunting by doing research and hunting down the facts à la “The Da Vinci Code”, rather than simply recreating and retelling the facts via Lincoln’s “Vampire journals”.
Seth Grahame-Smith doesn’t seem terribly troubled to bother explaining Vampire history or how other people become Vampires (Abe was bit in the shoulder by a Vampire at some point in the book, but isn’t affected by it for some reason. Is it only a bite in the neck?), or even what would happen if the world found out the true existence of Vampires, as if he assumes we already know about Vampires and the myth doesn’t need to be repeated (he does go into a little detail about it, but not much). Yes, I am aware of the Vampire myth, but what always drives me crazy in Vampire stories, such as “Dracula” and the “Twilight” series, is how easily people accept that Vampires just ARE. Abe is appropriately shocked at first to learn they exist, and then goes off to hunt them down without really understanding how they came to be. I think this would be my first question, wouldn’t you agree? This is where the book takes a detour from creating what could be an interesting and compelling story and instead appears to be merely a retelling of Abe’s life with some Vampires thrown in whenever there is a gap in the Lincoln timeline. What was he doing between 1835-36? Oh, he was hunting Vampires.
This is not to say that portraying Lincoln as a Vampire hunter isn’t a clever or funny premise. It is. Whatever threads of comprehension and detail the author chooses to omit regarding Vampires, he does make up for it with his research on Lincoln. The Vampire hunting ties nicely with Lincoln’s hatred of slavery and is part of the reason behind the cause of the Civil War. The sudden and seemingly mysterious deaths of his children are explained as having been caused by Vampires. Grahame-Smith portends that much of the history of Lincoln as we know it can easily be explained by the existence of Vampires. And just as the film Zoolander claimed that Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth was really a male model, the author makes the claim that he was indeed a Vampire.
All of the author’s claims are backed up with sufficient “evidence” in the form of actual Civil War letters, historical facts and historical photos. I can’t speak for the letters, but the photos are obviously photoshopped and doctored, which is hysterical and also annoying. Annoying, I say, because the other reason this book fails on a certain level is in the tone. It’s campy, sure, but is it meant to be taken somewhat seriously? Are we meant to really believe any of this is true, as in a bizarre conspiracy theory, or is it expected to be a joke? The intro chapter, as I mentioned, has a level of tension and suspense that is never quite reached again the rest of the book. If you’ve read “World War Z” by Max Brooks, then you may know what I’m talking about. Obviously, Zombies can be a funny topic, but WWZ is not meant to be funny. “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” has a lot of humor amid some not funny stuff, and there isn’t really a clear line between camp, horror and black comedy.
Since I haven’t read any other “alt-history” works, I can’t really comment on how this book compares to others in the genre. Maybe these books are only meant to be taken seriously on the lightest level. It could have been a truly spectacular and refreshing read, but it doesn’t quite get there. I noticed other reviews found the book incredibly cheesy and lazy. I wouldn’t go that far, but I would say that if you go for this book don’t expect to be blown away. The ending is great, however, but this level of surprise and suspense is also needed for about 3/4 of the book. A good and quick read for plane rides when you’ve got the uninterrupted time.