Fiction: “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” by Seth Grahame-Smith

I think it’s been pretty well established at this point that I am not a historian. As much as I’d love to have a business card that proclaims me to be a “Master of the Occult and Obtainer of Rare Antiquities,” what I don’t know about history — both American and non — would fill about a frillion books. So while it was — oh wow, coincidence — this time last year that I spent the entire month of April reading about the first third of Theodore Roosevelt’s life, apparently April became American History Month over here at That’s What She Read, because this month I read Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.Now, as you can tell by the title, it’s not exactly actual history. After all, while it would be freaking amazing for our sixteenth president to have been a vampire hunter — and Mr. Grahame-Smith does make a convincing argument for it — it probably didn’t actually happen. Probably.

So anyway. I was proud of myself — I didn’t look up anything about Lincoln on Wikipedia until after I finished reading the book. And I was pleasantly surprised at how many events in Lincoln’s real life could be explained (and, in some cases, better explained) by events in Vampire Hunter. For instance, Lincoln’s mother died when he was nine of something called “milk sickness.” In the book, however, “milk sickness” is merely a synonym for “drained by a vampire.” Lincoln learns from his father everything about vampires and the chaos that vampires have brought to his family. Lincoln’s grandfather was killed by vampires and his father observed the death; Lincoln’s father borrowed money from someone that turned out to be a vampire, and when he couldn’t pay the guy back, the vampire killed Lincoln’s mother as repayment. At that moment, Lincoln vows to devote his life to killing vampires.

He meets Henry Sturges, who is a very old vampire. But Henry is … well, he’s like … Angel, I guess? If Angel was fully devoted to ridding the world of evil vampires and less devoted to a perky blonde vampire slayer who’s too young to realize when she’s in love with the wrong person. Anyway, Henry sends Lincoln names of vampires that he wants exterminated, and Abe does his bidding.

What I found both interesting, appropriate, and trite was that the Civil War (and therefore, slavery) was fought over vampirism. According to this worldview, slave owners were typically vampires, and they would buy up poor, unhealthy slaves along with stronger slaves and use the latter in the fields and feast on the former. As time marches further along towards 1861, Lincoln learns that the vampires of the South want to enslave the human race, much like the human race enslaved … well, slaves. He and Henry get a Union together to fight the South, and thus, the Civil War is born.

Much like Titanic, you know what’s going to happen at the end of the story. And you can probably guess what Mr. Grahame-Smith does with John Wilkes Booth, so I’m not going to go into that here. I will say that while the climax is expected, the denoument was not, and pleasantly surprising at that.

Now, I loved Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but I think the main reason why I loved PPZ was because I had read Pride and Prejudice a couple of times and always put it back on the shelf in a wistful manner; I always felt something was missing. And PPZ made me realize what was missing: zombies. Pride and Prejudice always needed zombies, and Seth Grahame-Smith gave me Pride and Prejudice and Zombies! It was perfect! And while I really enjoyed Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, I guess I didn’t have a need for Abraham Lincoln to be a vampire hunter, and that’s why I didn’t love it as much as PPZ.

Don’t get me wrong: I love the idea that Abraham Lincoln could have been a vampire hunter. But I didn’t open the book — or finish it, for that matter — thinking Yes; this is what Abraham Lincoln needed.

Grade for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter: 3 stars

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