By April 5, 2011

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Kindle book review

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the two types of books I read: educational “brain” books and entertainment-only “fun” books. Since then I’ve read three more books. One was about the Crusades, and was obviously very serious. On the complete other end of the spectrum was Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith. It’s so far into the fun zone that other fun books put pinkies to mouths and harrumph at the Fun Book Ball.

First off, I’m going to caution you to avoid reading synopses of the book online. In preparing for this post I found that a lot of the online discussion spoiled major parts of the book. Some of the reviews on Amazon are okay, but avoid Wikipedia or book review sites.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s discuss the theme of the book: Abraham Lincoln fights vampires. A shit ton of them. At first it’s for personal reasons, and by the end of the novel he’s fighting for every man, woman and child in America.

I read the book looking for allusions and allegories. Was Grahame-Smith drawing a correlation between slavery and vampirism? Was there a story about personal sacrifice for the benefit of the greater social fabric? Or was the book just a stake-driving, hatchet-throwing, asskicking romp?

The fictional accounts of Lincoln’s vampire hunting diaries are like an onion skin on top of actual history. You don’t need to have an appreciate of history to enjoy the book, but it helps. The book surmises answers to period questions, like “why did so many soldiers die fighting in the American Civil War?” The real answers trend from new weapons technologies employed in older battle doctrines, incompetent leadership, and economic / manufacturing issues. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter explains that the casualties were due to vampires fighting against Union forces.

Sometimes the exposition is more personal. There is a lot of folklore about Lincoln being a book hound, reading by candle light in his childhood cabin. What would motivate a child to do such a thing, when his father was illiterate and barely able to hold down a job? Not the kind of figure that would promote reading, right? Perhaps instead of reading books, perhaps Lincoln was chronicling his lifelong war against the undead.

However as I carved my way through the pages I didn’t find any real lasting commentary. If there is any meaning to the tale other than “Abraham Lincoln kills more vampires than the Sun,” it is very subtle. The story does a very good job at painting a picture of a boy who loved his mom but was forced to bear burdens no single man should shoulder. I believe that these “deeper” parts of the book are meant to endear Lincoln to the reader and act as a character study of someone under unthinkable pressure. I don’t believe the book has a deep, humanistic meaning. And that’s totally okay.

The pacing of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a lot like the letter “U.” It starts of really good and the first half flies by. I found the story to drag as Lincoln makes his bid for the presidency. I know that it’s a literary device to slow pacing in order to build tension, but I found certain parts of the book just slow. Perhaps I was spoiled by the first portion of the book, but the story loses a great deal of momentum until the last 1/5th or so. My Amazon Kindle doesn’t display page numbers, so it’s just a guess. I enjoyed the end of the book and it left me with a really satisfied smile on my face.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter an entertaining yarn, which perhaps started out as the author’s exercise on why Lincoln took up the Abolitionist and emancipation causes. You don’t have to be a history student to enjoy the book, but an appreciation of American Civil War history will add to your reading experience.

Strongly recommended

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6 Comments on "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Kindle book review"

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  1. Cymwyd says:

    I’ve read “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” and found it mostly innocuous, but had a hard time suspending disbelief sufficiently. I didn’t think the author had a coherent position on zombies. They shambled, so Darcy and Bingley were able to outrun them on horseback; traveled in hordes of 30 or more, yet could be dispelled by a single shotgun blast (btw, did they have shotguns in 1812?); as well as effectively attacked and killed by (a) men with rapiers and (b) women doing martial arts (that would be Lizzie and her sisters, as well as Lady Catherine). I’m just not sure I would want to be quite that up front and personal with a zombie horde :-)

    Just bought “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters” for my son’s GF and “Sherlock Holmes and the Flying Zombie Death Monkeys” for my husband – who could resist a title like that?

  2. DrFaulken says:

    Cymwyd, do you think that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was “just for fun,” or do you think there was some sort of commentary behind it?

    It might add to my theory that AL:VH is just for grins.

  3. Cymwyd says:

    I think it was just for fun. I believe P&P&Z was one of the earliest, if not the first, mashup novels combining a classic author/story/milieu and the current popularity of zombies/vampires/undead. I don’t think it was particularly well-executed; it came across to me as though the author asked What would happen if… and ran with it, before thinking about the logical bases of the underlying premises. It is not a particularly successful novel of manners, per Jane Austen, nor is it a particularly good zombie story.

    Having said that, I think the writing mechanics and the story lines of subsequent mashups have been improving. They are becoming better reflections of both source genres. But unless the whole fascination with the undead has a deeper social commentary that I’ve missed, they’re just for fun.

    I’ll let you know if that assessment changes after I read Sherlock Holmes and the Flying Zombie Death Monkeys :-)

  4. Selki says:

    I think there was some commentary behind it, such as when Elizabeth attended the mass zombie burning and narrated casually that some of those being burned had been infected by villagers purely so they could turn them in for bounties, but in her eyes this was ok b/c hey, it was getting rid of zombies. Some class-ism there, for one thing, because it had clearly not occurred to her that any of HER friends/family might be infected in such a way.

  5. Cymwyd says:

    I just read the first 10 pages of “Sherlock Holmes and the Flying Zombie Death Monkeys”, hereinafter SH:FZDM. Don’t waste your time. This isn’t even “for fun”.

    Successful parody requires both skill in writing and intimate familiarity with the genre and style being parodied. The author is clearly unfamiliar with either Sherlock Holmes or the general zombie genre. The writing is poor, and the humor properly belongs in a grade school bathroom.

    FWIW, amazon reviews are very good – 10 of 12 reviews gave 4 and 5 stars.

    Great title, though.

  6. Selki says:

    However, I can give a thumbs-up to “Jane Slayre”. I don’t remember much of the early parts of Jane Eyre, but I thought Jane Slayre’s unpleasant upbringing (ostracized amidst snobby vampires) made her/the book’s somewhat bleak tone more reasonable. I thought the action with vampires and other monsters was better integrated with the book than P&P&Z. I liked it!

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