Review: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

Book cover of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

I have to admit, I wasn’t all that intent on reading this one. I’ve been a bit stalled on vampire fiction lately and, being British, I’m not all that ‘up’ on my American presidents. However, during a stay at my boyfriend’s with nothing else to read, he passed Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter my way. Not his usual type of book either, to be fair, but he claimed to have been pleasantly surprised. By the time I’d finished reading it, I was too.

Plot summary: Abraham Lincoln was just a boy when he learned that his mother’s untimely death was actually the work of a vampire. From then on, he vowed to devote his intelligence, strength–and skill with an ax–to the elimination of the soulless creatures. It was a path of vengeance that would lead him all the way to the White House.

No one ever knew about Lincoln’s valiant struggle against the undead… until author Seth Grahame-Smith laid eyes on Abe’s secret journal–the first living person to do so in over 140 years. Putting a supernatural spin on revisionist history, Seth has reconstructed Lincoln’s true life story–while revealing the role vampires played in the birth, growth and near-death of our nation.

For the record, Lewis picked this up before the movie (he’d kill me if I didn’t mention that). I didn’t, but I read it based on his rare recommendation of a slightly trashy book. Surprisingly though, it’s not all that trashy. Instead, it’s a well-written yet accessible biography of Abraham Lincoln. But, you know, with vampires.

Like I said in the introduction, all I knew about this particular president (which is still more than I knew about any other) was from my Comparative Law module at University, where we briefly studied the abolition of slavery. As for Lincoln’s life, other beliefs, family… Nothing. But hey, that’s where Seth Grahame-Smith comes in. Absolutely no prior knowledge is needed to read this. In fact, I can’t decide if it would be better to know a little about him to understand the references and be able to better separate fact from fiction (obviously I understand the vampires were highly probably fictional, but the story states he met Edgar Allen Poe, which he never did), or better to know nothing and learn as you go, like I did.

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter - altered photo, young hunter

Ahhh, the vampires. Although they do form a large part of the story, they don’t take over it. The main point is still, quite obviously, Lincoln’s life. It’s quite clever in some ways though – certain decisions are jigged around a little to involve vampires. For example, Abe’s fervent wish to end slavery was apparently fuelled by a connect desire to banish vampires from US soil. The methods, speeches and events are mostly the same, just the reasoning is altered. I also loved the occasional altered photograph, like this one on the right. I’m not sure if you can read the text, but it says ‘Fig. 12 – Abe stands among his vampire victims in a painting titled ‘The Young Hunter’ by Diego Swanson (Oil on Canvas, 1913).’

The beginning is excellent – a struggling writer is approached with the lost diaries of Abraham Lincoln, and is requested to write them up into a publishable form. As the story begins, we’re introduced to Abe’s early life including his mother’s murder, which leads to his quest for vengeance. It’s brilliant – very fast-paced and informative. Unfortunately, the middle part of the book lags a little. It’s just kind of repetitive. He kind of meanders around aimlessly, and we’re told he’s apparently fighting vampires at the same time. There’s very little about his motivation behind getting involved in politics – it’s just kind of rushed over. Thankfully, it does get back on track after he’s achieved the Oval Office. It would have been better if the ending had returned to the original author character in the beginning, I think – just to round it off a little, instead of the rushed ending we’re left with.

If you’ve seen the recent Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter movie trailer you’ll know what an intense, action-heavy film it looks to be. The book isn’t quite like that, although obviously you can’t have a book about hunting vampires without a little action. Instead, it’s more about Abe’s decision making and struggles with responsibility. The action that does take place is very well-choreographed however and filled with the sense of urgency that only a life-or-death struggle can provide.

Honestly, I’d have been more than happy with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter even if it didn’t bother with the vampires. It’s still an accessible yet complete biography of the 16th President of the United States. I actually really like him. As a person, I mean, not necessarily the character he is in Seth Grahame-Smith’s book. I agree with most of his principles and I respect him for standing up for what he believed in. I’ve added a few less occult biographies to my wishlist, and it’s a rare vampire book that makes you long for respected books on American Presidents.

 Visit Seth Grahame-Smith’s website here, or read my take on the upcoming movie.

Comments

  1. FABR Steph says:

    I too have been on a break from vampire books, although I have been a bit curious over this one. I may have to give it a try. The premise is so different. Thanks for the review.

  2. I don't quite know how you do it but I find myself actually wanting to read a book about an American president fighting vampires…!

    Although I do sometimes worry with books like this that I'll one day make a fool of myself from not quite getting the fiction-fact distinction quite right. Like the Edgar Allen Poe thing! I don't even know whether they were alive at the same time (although I could find that out if I weren't being a touch lazy…) so if someone tells me they met up, I'm going to be like "Huh..I didn't know that!" And then I might tell someone who does know about that kind of thing and they'll laugh in my face. It could happen.

    Unless it tells me what's not true at the end or something? That would help…

    1. Hanna says:

      It doesn't tell you what's not true, but this website does –

      http://abrahamlincolnblog.blogspot.co.uk/2010/03/abraham-lincoln-vampire-hunter-facts-vs.html

      Trust me, it's more than useful.

      And it's also £2 in HMV at the minute 🙂

  3. Haha, sounds like a wicked idea – not normally my sort of thing but sounds fun.

    ================================
    WIN Tickets to the British Library’s Summer Exhibition (competition ends 15th June 2012)

  4. I read the book, but didn't watch the movie. Honestly, I have one negative and one positive comment to say.

    POSITIVE: You can tell Smith did his homework! He paints a ridiculously detailed biography of Lincoln's life. I should know…I've read over 10 biographies of said president's life.

    NEGATIVE: Enough with the lame vampire angles! Not that there aren't any good vampire/paranormal stories out there, but I'm tired of an immense overdose of vampire stories. Seriously, people? Get creative and find a new angle for YA novels.

    That said, great review! Thanks 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *