Book Reviews

Book Review – Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith – Abraham Lincoln: Action Hero

Back when this book was made into a movie, I made it a point to find and read this before seeing the movie. Since I like historical fiction, the idea of a bit of a science fiction edge to President Lincoln’s life definitely piqued my interest.

The premise is that secret journals of Abraham Lincoln have been given to the author.  He at one time dreamed of becoming a writer, but has settled into the small-town life managing a variety store in the face of a changing economic environment.  All this is the introduction to the meat of the story once he gets his hands on those journals.

You see, everything we know about Abraham Lincoln has an underlying motivation we weren’t told about.  It seems that the “New World” wasn’t just a land of opportunity for those looking to escape religious persecution in Europe.  It was also a land of opportunity for those who had been forced to hide in the shadows.  Indeed, as the story unfolds, it seems that there was a vampire among those who landed in the first colony in what is now North Carolina.

For reasons that become evident during the story, they managed to flourish in this environment, and the institution of slavery benefitted them.

Then along came Abraham Lincoln.

He is a bit of a reluctant hero, witnessing what apparently was the death of his mother at the hands of a vampire.  He is determined to avenge her.  By blending quite well what we know of Lincoln’s upbringing with a fantastical vampire tale, author Seth Grahame-Smith creates a novel that brings one of the most revered figures in American history to life in a way never imagined before.  Even the parts that don’t directly deal with his ongoing battle with vampires are interesting as I got to know more about the young life of Mr. Lincoln before he came onto the political scene.  I’d heard the anecdotes about being raised in a log cabin and being self-educated, but the various adventures he had in his life and enterprises that failed before he became the man who would be President are fascinating.

All of this life, though, is set to the tone that the ultimate reason for much of what happened during the Civil War was actually a war to decide whether we would be a nation ruled by vampires or not.  Lincoln is guided along the way by a close friend who would seem to be an unlikely ally, and whose motivations I doubted a number of times.  Although we know much of the story of Lincoln from 1860 forward, including his death, Grahame-Smith manages to do a terrific job creating a sense of danger and intrigue as to what will happen, as well as giving a nice twist at the end that may disappoint some.  I’m still not quite sure what I thought of the ending.

Grahame-Smith does not shirk from the brutality of the frontier as well as what vampires do.  His descriptions are quite vivid and bloody.  There is much violence all around, from Lincoln’s attacks on those vampires deemed to be a problem (he carries a sharpened axe as his main weapon) to the bloodshed on the battlefield, one gets a sense of a much more brutal time.

At times I had a hard time with it.  Although there is enough intrigue and action in the book, at times it seemed to be a dry, historical novel.  It’s not supposed to be that at all, and I wondered if the author was trying to get the flavor of some early novels about Lincoln that weren’t exactly a compelling read and blend them with this story.  If he was, it actually works quite well.

Although much of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter seems to be about turning our 16th President into an action hero, it blends this action into his life quite well.  If you’re like me, you’ll come away feeling like maybe you know a bit more about the man as well as having read a fun story.