Home > Books, Fiction, In the Media, Something Like a Review, Writing > Something Like a Review – Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

Something Like a Review – Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

I was very intrigued when I caught wind of this book when it first appeared on the scene. On the one hand, I was blown away by Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but on the other, vampires have been appearing everywhere in every possible scenario. While I love those fanged enigmas, I’d been getting pretty tired of them (still am a little numb to the onslaught, truth be told) and I wasn’t sure if I was going to really be able to listen to the book and set the vamp-weariness aside.

As I’ve said before, though, I’m a curious kitten, and as the whispers of the upcoming movie reached my ears, I set my reservations aside and downloaded the book.

This is a unique book written in biography style and using journal excerpts to form the narrative and get “inside Lincoln’s head.” The format helps develop the character voice and create a sense of stepping into the life of a historical figure. The voice was true to the writings of the time, as far as I’ve experienced them, and Grahame-Smith had a deft hand when creating it. As unique and true to style as it was, it did start to grate on my nerves and get annoying. “I could not.” “It mattered not.” “I cared not.” The relentless style, the implacable patterns and flow of his speech just bugged me after a while. In a weird way, though, it enhanced the fact that I was listening to historical fiction, if it was alternative version thereof. I felt immersed in the world, the language and the time…the repetitiveness is something that got to me.*

One of the most engaging and interesting things about this story was the premise behind it that drew Mr. Lincoln in to his vampire hunting. The premise that slavery in the United States was the front for vampirism was not only plausible, Grahame-Smith did a masterful job weaving it into the conflict between the north and the south and using both known and behind-the-scenes politics to enrich the story. I found myself believing it, and “understanding” how the conflicts arose and the external pressures that created the conflict around this sanguinary topic.

Grahame-Smith did not take enormous risks with the trope, but did make palatable changes to how the vampires behaved, interacted and lived in the 19th century human world. He kept it alive, and interesting while still paying homage to those who’d left their mark on it previously. It was well done, and something I appreciated as something of a vampire snob (*ahem*).

While I liked the style of the story, and aside from my one niggling irritation, I felt that the beginning of the story remained unresolved. One of the characters from Lincoln’s chronicle presents the writer of the biography with Lincoln’s journals and asks him to create a manuscript and this is left pretty much unresolved other than the fact that it’s clear that what I’d finished was the product of his labors. I found myself asking questions about what happened with him. There wasn’t really closure for that thread, and it didn’t seem like the story had been left open enough for him to return. I was somewhat confused and disappointed at that, but I understand that it may have just been the medium that I was using. When I’m next in a book store, I plan to pick up a copy just to flip to the back and see if I missed something that would clarify where it left off.

My opinion is that Seth Grahame-Smith is the magician of the mash-up, and an alchemist of the alternative history. I loved Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, enjoyed his sequels to it, and I think he did a fantastic job with Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. I look forward to reading more from him just to see what his twisted hindsight will bring us in the future.

(And I’m salivating over the prospect of seeing this on film. Click here for the trailer… You won’t regret it…Well, you might, but only because you’ll have to wait until summer.)

* As a note to the reader, this is a personal pet peeve that happens to me a lot. I’m not good with repetitive sounds, or other relentless irritants. If it gives me a mental bruise from poking the same spot in the same way over and over again, I get frustrated. The machine-gun exhaust of a motorcycle, the sustained whine of a fire truck siren trying to pick its way through thick traffic, most thumpa-thumpa techno/house music, leaky faucets, the song “Simple Man” by Shinedown, etc. It doesn’t matter if it’s good, how effective or evocative it is, or how much I like the piece overall – poking the same spot in my brain without cessation in the exact same way will straight up piss me off. So take this complaint with a heaping teaspoon of the proverbial salt because it may not bug someone less weird than me…and it may be strictly related to the format I used to take the story in. Would the repetition have bothered me so much if I were reading it? It’s hard to say. Don’t let it deter you from reading the story, but if you’re at all like me, you may want to steer clear of the audio version. Caveat emptor.

Medium: Audiobook narrated by Scott Holst (audible.com)

Other: Trade paperback from Amazon.com

Overall Rating: 4 Stars

Potential Re-read?: Possible, but not likely. I think I’m more likely to watch this story repeatedly on film than listen to it or re-read it on paper. This is not a disparagement of the story…see note about my auditory issues.

Dead-tree worthy?: Not for me, but definitely will require shelf space for an alternate-history buff.

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