by Christina Morgan Cree
In Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Seth Grahame-Smith tells the “real” story behind the war that ripped a nation apart. Following the huge and unexpected success of his first mash-up, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies in 2009, Grahame-Smith uses the same formula and interjects stories of vampires at various points along the chronology of Lincoln’s biography.
If you haven’t read the book, there’s no need for a spoiler alert. Once you’ve read the title, there aren’t many surprises to be revealed. The book opens with a shop clerk who has long given up his dream of being a writer. He is handed a once in a lifetime opportunity by an infrequent and mysterious customer named Henry, who gives him Abraham Lincoln’s “secret diary”( which reveals the previously undocumented role vampires have played in our nation’s history) and tells him to write what really happened.
The book then goes back to the beginning of Lincoln’s life, linking vampires to his earliest and most marked tragedies: the death of the grandfather he never knew, his mother, and his soul mate, Ann Rutledge. Full of vengeful fury, he sets out to rid the world of vampires and nearly dies on his first expedition. Enter Henry Sturges, vampire with a vendetta against vampires. He nurses Lincoln back to health, trains him in vampire combat, and gives him a starter list of vampires to kill. Throughout the book, Henry sends Lincoln after different vampires and along the way, two new hunters join him in his cause. As Lincoln pursues his quest to “kill every vampire in America” he comes to realize that these monsters and the slave owners are linked and he now has even more motivation to abolish slavery.
There’s a great nail-biting section in the almost minute-by-minute account of John Wilkes Booth’s elaborate and complicated assassination plot and all the people involved.
Even though some critics called the book’s premise of a bio/horror mashup “past its prime”, the idea was still a good one, yet full of unrealized potential. I felt cheated out of what could have been a riveting novel-it needed something more like a plot that hooked me and had at least one twist to it, fascinating characters who were not what they seemed to be, suspense filled drama, witty or at least somewhat interesting dialogue, and just a little continuity as the author jumped back and forth between Lincoln’s real life and the made up bits.
The one thing that was difficult to overlook was the book’s treatment of the slavery issue. After the horrible and very real abuses and indignities suffered by generations of slaves, must they now be subjected to imagined atrocities at the hands of vampires? The story’s conclusion was somewhat confusing, as it didn’t offer any resolution for its opening section.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a fun, easy read that combines history and horror and casts the 16th president in a completely new light. The question that kept coming to mind over and over was: when does he sleep?
Watch for the review of the movie here on Monday night!