It is tempting to review Valentine’s Day today, which would be an easily scathing review to write and constitute my second straight “F” grade. But I’m not about taking the easy way out. (Most of the time, at least.) So since today is a day about love, sweetness and chocolate – why not review a book about death, hatred and blood? Sounds great to me! I present to you Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
The teaser trailer for the movie adaption of Honest Abe’s murderous rampage of the undead was just released, so this seems like a good time to visit the book, which I finished about two months ago. I assume most people have heard about this novel by now, but for those who haven’t, yes, it is a real thing, and not a Saturday Night Live skit. (Plus, do you really think SNL would be that funny?) Vampire Hunter is from the brain of Seth Grahame-Smith, the author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which I sadly have yet to read. I know this is hard to believe, but the book is about Abraham Lincoln hunting…vampires. It’s from the Snakes on a Plane school of titles. (Also included in this school: Man On A Ledge, Zack and Miri Make A Porno, and head of the class Hot Tub Time Machine.)
Here’s the actually surprising part of this book: it’s essentially a biography of Abraham Lincoln. Just with, you know, vampires. I haven’t done enough research on Lincoln to know this, but I imagine if you removed the vampires from the equation, you’d probably get an incredibly precise and detailed biography of Lincoln. We learn about Honest Abe’s life from year to year, month to month, and even day to day at points. In fact, I feel much more qualified to talk about Lincoln’s life now than before. You actually come out of this novel feeling like you learned something.
But of course…there’s the whole vampire thing. And here’s another surprising aspect of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter: it plays its concept with a totally straight face. There is no jokey self-aware winking at the reader here, no acknowledgement that the mash-up of Abraham Lincoln and killing vampires is as truly ridiculous as it is – Grahame-Smith almost wants you to believe that this actually happened. In fact, it’s so dead-on a biography that he may have even convinced himself that Lincoln was an assassin of the undead. The vampires are seamlessly woven into the story, both in the form of new characters and familiar ones. (I’m not going to spoil anything, but just play word association with yourself. And whoever you think of when you think of Abe Lincoln is probably a vampire.)
There’s not much to say here in the way of plot, because the “plot” is just Lincoln’s life. The biggest change, obviously, comes in the way of…I can’t believe I am really still typing this but seriously this is the premise of the book…VAMPIRES. Lincoln is affected by a tragedy at a young age caused by…wait for it…waait for it…vampires! So the future President vows to slaughter every vampire in the United States. The brilliance of using Lincoln as the main figure of the story, aside from, say, George Washington or George W. Bush, is how Grahame-Smith ties in the historical era into the vampire story. The Civil War and slavery are both historically tied in with the American infestation of vampires. (Admittedly, though, the thought of vampires running the Bush administration, with George W. wielding a lasso and an axe while riding horseback with Dick Cheney is an awesome one. Can Quentin Tarantino direct this?)
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is not a book you’ll be stuck on for weeks. It’s a speed-read for sure, which can be both a positive and negative thing. If you don’t like it, you don’t have too long before it ends. And if you like it? Well, Lincoln died at a fairly young age. (Whoops, spoiler alert.) It’s a “popcorn movie” of a book, one that you enjoy mainly for its entertainment value at the time and probably won’t remember for much longer after the fact. Of course, it’s soon being made into a popcorn movie of a movie, and won’t that be fun?
For this Valentine’s Day, don’t get your loved one a heart filled with chocolate or a romantic dinner by candlelight. A tale of gore, fangs, blood and an axe-wielding president should do just fine.
(And before you ask, no, Veronica, I didn’t actually get you this.)
BONUS LIST! The three best and worst non-Lincoln selections for this style of book…
3. Barack Obama: Vampire Hunter. Already got Bin Laden…the undead should be a piece of cake.
2. Teddy Roosevelt: Vampire Hunter. This would be the shortest of the books, after Teddy Roosevelt kills all vampires by simply winking at them.
1. FDR: Vampire Hunter. And you all thought that wheelchair was real.
3. Harry S Truman: Vampire Hunter. “Sir? We’ve discovered some alarming news…turns out vampires are immune to atomic bombs.”
2. Richard Nixon: Vampire Hunter. Guess what the “V” sign really stood for?
1. William Henry Harrison: Vampire Hunter. Vampires win.