Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

I love a book that tells you everything you need to know in the title. This book is about Abraham Lincoln hunting vampires.

And Seth Grahame-Smith pulls it off. This book is fairly well-researched, though it doesn’t delve much deeper than a history channel special. Grahame-Smith does a fantastic job of adding vampires to a fourth grade US history class.

Abraham Lincoln, when he wasn’t splitting rails, practicing law or shaking the earth with the greatest speeches in history, spent many years slaying vampires – the real threat to American freedom.

On this point, Grahame-Smith does a few things I really appreciate. I appreciate the lack of diatribe about the characteristics of vampires and the various methods of killing them. Anybody who would pick up this book probably already knows all this. When I pick up Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, I want to see Abraham Lincoln driving stakes into the hearts of vampires. I want to see him slice the heads off the undead. Grahame-Smith obliges.

The format of the book is quite pleasing. Supposedly, it is based on secret journals detailing Honest Abe’s hunting. That said, Grahame-Smith tells much of the story in Abe’s own words, inserting many “journal entries” into the more omniscient narrative.

Perhaps the most appealing part of the book is the use of Abe’s real words. Undoubtedly real journal entries and speeches sit beside sprinklings of Grahame-Smith’s fabrications. In some cases, Grahame-Smith merely inserts the word “vampire” into a historical document. Often, I found myself wondering what words Abe wrote himself and which ones Grahame-Smith invented.

The books biggest drawback is it’s brevity. While I appreciate Grahame-Smith leaving out the finer details of vampire killing, I thought the book was missing something. Maybe it was a lack of true description. There are a few glorious pearls of vivid description, but many events are described in a detached, second hand manner. Even the journal entries carry the air of somebody writing years later – remembering, not describing the heat of the moment.

Grahame-Smith’s greatest strength is his ability to balance a ridiculous premise and the desire to be taken seriously as an author. He delvers even the most outlandish claims in a deadpan manner – telling it straight, but with full knowledge that Abraham Lincoln was probably not a vampire hunter.

In all, this book is masterful work. Grahame-Smith created a genre of mash-ups, and I think only he has the power to control that genre. Grahame-Smith is a powerful writer. His descriptions are impeccable. He creates a believable voice for Lincoln.

Read the book and judge for yourself.