May 20, 2010

Review: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

By Seth Grahame-Smith
Available now from Grand Central Publishing; Review copy

Book Cover

I'm not often this torn about a book.

On one hand, ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER has a lot going for it. I enjoy the meta, that a vampire sent Seth Grahame-Smith Lincoln's diaries. I admire how well Grahame-Smith managed to replicate the tone of a history text - somewhat dry, but hints that the author is having lots of fun. (I would, however, be over the moon for footnotes.) Grahame-Smith makes up most of Lincoln's backstory wholesale, but says it quite convincingly. I'll also admit that the bloody mayhem is fairly fun too. On the other hand, Grahame-Smith failed to absorb me into his world.

Perhaps it was because of the academic tone. Perhaps it was the use of history I'm familiar with. Whatever it was, I could not stop reading critically after Lincoln's encounter with a slave market.

The Civil War is a rough time to write about. People still feel strongly about it, especially since racism is alive and well. The depiction of racism in pop culture is important. (See: Racialicious.)

Lincoln is pretty horrified by how the slaves are treated. But he only vows to end slavery once he realizes the slaves help sustain America's vampire population. It made me uncomfortable, especially since human rights' violations convinced the real Lincoln slavery needed to be ended. I disliked that ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER made vampires the tipping point, the impetus for the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil War. I felt like it cheapened many of the real reasons the nation went to war against itself.

I had fun reading ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER, mostly. But I'm not looking to be made uncomfortable by my popcorn reading. Although, my medieval lit professor, a classmate, and myself noticed an odd thing about Grahame-Smith's writing: it's enjoyable enough while you're reading, but it doesn't really compel you to pick the book up after you set it down. I ended up reading ABRAHAM LINCOLN, VAMPIRE HUNTER in sporadic chunks.


  1. I haven't read this one yet - have you tried any of the other mashups? Pride and Prejudice and Zombies? I'm really curious about how they work, when they work. :)

  2. I own PPZ and have read some of it. It's actually by Grahame-Smith too, and has much the same effect I listed in the last paragraph. It's fun while I'm reading, but I'm not compelled to pick it back up after setting it down. I haven't tried any other mash-ups, which might work better for me, since I've critically studied Jane Austen and am hugely fond of her literary technique.

  3. I feel the same way. I haven't read this particular book, but my experience with other books in the genre hasn't made me want to read more. Entertaining enough while I'm reading, but not something I'll love forever, or even think about once I'm done.

    I think I'll skip this one. The slavery issues made me uncomfortable while reading your review, so I'm sure it would bother me even more in the book.


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