Sunday, June 26, 2011

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fiendishly clever read!

This novel, by the author of the mother of all mash-up novels, "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies", really takes history for a gothic spin with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

With surpisingly meticulous care for historical detail, Mr. Grahame-Smith has presented a biographical portrait of Abraham Lincoln, sometimes in his own words, that reads almost like a highschool history textbook. In many ways it's a book report on one of America's most beloved presidents told through an all night cram session laced with too much junk food, energy drinks, and with a particularly bloody Hammer Films production screaming in the background.

Abraham Lincoln the character, comes out every much as honest, and hard working as the Abe Lincoln we know and love, the novel tracing his life through childhood (when he loses his mother to a vampire) and to that tragic night at Fords Theater (where there are also vampires.) Any Lincoln enthusiast will find a lot to snicker about seeing familiar faces, and places turned upside down and ripped at the seams with a gothic rewrite. Any horror fan will be thoroughly satiated by the buckets of blood and limbs that splatter and roll across the pages. (Well we can't let Mr. Lincoln's famous axe-wielding prowess go to waste now can we?)

The vampires in this novel are not the romantic, dazzling, self hating boy toys that have become the trend these days, but are the narcissistic, cruel, black eyed blood-suckers of the sort Christoper Lee made famous. They are creatures we root to see hunted down and slain.

It is quite easy to get caught up in the blood hunt in this novel as well. For the backdrop is the slave-holding South of pre-Civil War America, an America where vampires rule the Antebellum plantations and farm slaves as cattle. There are moments of cruelty against slaves so shocking that it pours salt in the wound of America's history, hammering into the casual reader who would rather not think deeply about that time just how repugnant and unforgivable a crime slavery was.

And that's what really makes this novel rock. The politics and events leading up to the civil war, from the effete slave owners who rationalize the dehumanizing of an entire race, to the South Carolina congressman who beat his abolitionist rival near to death as congress was coming to session, are clearly laid out. The frustrations of the war, a loss at Bull Run, McClellan's unwillingness to move, are not glossed over, and the addition of an army of vampire Confederates perhaps makes us understand a little the fear actual Union soldiers felt upon hearing the Rebel Yell.

I also enjoyed Grahame-Smith's sensitive portrait of Mary Todd Lincoln. Too often Mary is treated as a clownish stereotype, something to be pitied and despised just as Edward Stanton did when he pulled her from the body of her dying husband. Here she is portrayed as the clever, vivacious young girl that first caught Abraham Lincoln's eye, and her descent into crippling depression is shown with surprising tenderness.

Apparently the movie rights for this book have been sold, a film to be produces by Tim Burton. It certainly is a story ripe for the big screen, and as long as Johnny Depp is not cast as Lincoln (all apologies to Mr. Depp who is brilliant), I think this could turn out quite good. In the meantime, don't hesitate to get your hands on this book, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I!

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