Review: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Geek Culture

After the surprise success of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Seth Grahame-Smith is following up his New York Times best-seller with the history/vampire mashup, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Graham-Smith’s publisher sent a galley copy of the book (due for release on March 2, 2010) and we’re pleased to bring you the GeekDad take on this alternative biography of the 16th President of the United States of America. Spoiler alert: I’ll try not to reveal too many specific details, but some plot elements are discussed (although really, the title of the book should be a pretty big reveal).

Cover Art Image Supplied by Grand Central PublishingCover Art Image Supplied by Grand Central Publishing

Cover Art Image Supplied by Grand Central Publishing

“Some people, Abraham, are just too interesting to kill.” So says the vampire who saves a teenage Abe Lincoln, who’s bitten off a bit more than he expected after ambushing a vampire in the guise of an elderly woman, on board an Ohio river boat. After discovering that his mother was slain by a vampire, the young Abraham Lincoln swears vengeance against the undead, using an axe to begin a campaign of vampire eradication that eventually has him becoming the most skilled and successful vampire hunter in America. All the while, he’s steered by Henry Sturges, the vampire who saved him early on in his career and who is determined to prevent America from being over-run by those of his kind who would destroy the country with their excesses. Sturges uses Lincoln as his assassin, supplying the future President with the name and location of vampires to be disposed of and slowly maneuvering him toward his greatest role.

As a Canadian, I may lack the credentials to comment on the authenticity of Lincoln history, but I do have a basic grasp of the subject matter and I own a copy of Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary (which I’ve watched several times); I have a pretty good idea of the names, places and dates that form the background story. Grahame-Smith does an excellent job of capturing the spirit of this style of story-telling, mixing historically accurate anecdotes with entries from Lincoln’s fictional secret journal, weaving the vampire elements into the story in a manner that’s quite believable. For example, while the real Lincoln’s mother died of Milk Sickness, in the fictional account, she is killed by a vampire-induced illness, with the author noting that it was likely caused by a vampire dripping several drops of blood into her mouth as she slept (resulting in sickness and death without actually causing the victim to transform into a vampire). It’s not a big leap, if one accepts the possibility that vampires existed. Footnotes and sepia photographs (in which vampires or suspected vampires are helpfully circled), complete the authentic feel of the book. While you might think that transforming Abraham Lincoln into a vengeful killer of the undead is the biggest risk the author takes with his premise, I’d suggest that turning slavery into a humans versus vampires cause probably treads on more eggshells. The Civil War itself is transformed into a struggle caused by the machinations of two opposing vampire camps. Nevertheless, it all works and I made excuses to avoid sorting my tax receipts in order to finish up the book instead.

I suspect that many readers of this blog would enjoy Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, but is it appropriate for your children? Young kids, definitely not. There is violence and it’s relatively restrained (especially when compared to, say, Stephen King’s Under The Dome, which I was also reading at the time), but it’s definitely too intense for the younger crowd. Parents of tweens and up shouldn’t have too many concerns though- while Lincoln works his way through a series of vampire decapitations, the description of the slayings isn’t particularly gruesome. Descriptions of Civil War injuries are actually the worst part, in terms of disturbing passages, and these are no worse than the accounts you’d find in history texts.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is available for pre-order now, with a March 2 release date.

Wired: Abraham Lincoln absolutely kicking vampire butt, effective interweaving of fiction and historical fact, use of historical photos (complete with subtle vampire elements) adds an air of authenticity.

Tired: Lincoln had many hardships in his life and the deaths of several children at a young age is always disturbing (obviously that’s not the author’s fault), but as a parent, I hate those parts.

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