Monday, 11 June 2012

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, Seth Grahame-Smith

Publishers: Grand Central Publishing

Pages: 368

Main Characters:

Abraham Lincoln, Henry Sturges

After reading the amazing Fevre Dream I decided that I wanted to continue down the ‘Vampire genre’ with the next book that I read. After seeing the trailer for the movie adaptation of this book I decided to give it a go. I had always thought that with a name like Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter this book was a sort of spoof a bit like Shaun of the Dead. But after seeing that it had been made into a movie directed by Tim Burton, I thought there might be a little bit more too this book. And there was! There are parts of this book that seem completely believable (even though they contain Vampires) and the author Seth Grahame-Smith is totally convinced Vampires are real, even going as far as saying that he has met one!

The novel is set in a sort of Biographical way, where Grahame-Smith retells the story of Lincoln’s youth, using his long lost journals (which existence has been debated by historians ever since Lincoln’s death!) The novel tells of how Lincoln was first introduced to Vampires at an early age after the death of his beloved mother. First believed to have died from milk poisoning, Lincoln later finds out from his father that she was murdered by a Vampire. This sends Lincoln down a path where he swears to ‘kill every Vampire in America’. However on his first attempt, Lincoln is nearly killed himself, believing that Garlic and Holy Water will repulse any of his foes! After receiving a broken leg (and other injuries!) Lincoln is saved from death by Henry Sturges, who as Lincoln later finds out is also a Vampire! Sturges introduces Lincoln to the correct way of Vampire hunting and tells him the secret that throughout history, Vampires have always been behind the world’s leader. Sturges tells Lincoln that in this part of time, it is the Vampires who are behind the slave trade in Southern America. That they use the slaves as a way to feed without the fear of been hunted by mortal men, because the white ruling classes in the South don’t care if a few worthless black slaves go missing!

This secret convinces Lincoln to become part of the underground group, The Union. A group of mortals and Vampires who want to see co-existence between the two different species. The Union convinces Lincoln to become President of the United States and helps him to achieve his aims. However when the Southern Vampires discover The Union has their man as the President, they decide to succeed, causing the Civil War. The book argues that the Civil War was not fought for state’s rights or the emancipation of slaves, but was a war between the two species Vampires and Humans. A war that if the South had won, the whole of the human race would become their ‘cattle’, only existing as a food supply for the Vampires.

I found this book very interesting and like I said above there are parts that seem very believable! I think this is because Grahame-Smith manages to coincide parts of Lincoln’s secret life with historical events. Events such as the death of Lincoln’s children.  This sickness that killed them was not a fever or illness but a poisoning from a Vampire’s bite. The events at the first battle of Bull Run and the South’s victory where not because of better tactics or the fact that the South fought back the North’s flank, but because the South had Vampires in its’ ranks and therefore couldn’t lose. These explanations from Lincoln’s journal and Grahame-Smith’s use of the historical events does suggest that history ‘could’ of happened the way Lincoln says in his journals and that Vampires do really exist.

However, been a history student and looking at this book from a historical point of view there are many flaws to Grahame-Smith’s argument. The first would be where are Lincoln’s journals now? In his introduction, Grahame-Smith says he was ‘loaned’ the journals by a 21st Century Henry Sturges and that when he completed his manuscript he had to return them. This seems a little too convenient. That he should have access to these legendary documents, write a novel that is the definition of the word ‘conspiracy’ and then say that the documents he based his entire argument on are no longer his (and that no one else has ever read them to back up his argument) is stupid! How can he expect people to believe him if he gave back all of his evidence?

The second flaw is that some of the quotes Grahame-Smith uses are too broad. As a historian, it is common to use quotes to back up you argument but it is also common to twist quotes to back up your argument! An example of this is that Lincoln says he wanted to ‘get rid of every Vampire in the U.S. government’. In this book Grahame-Smith twists the word ‘Vampire’ to literally mean the blood-sucking, sharp fanged creature of legend. However I could twist the word ‘Vampire’ in this sentence to mean someone who is sucking the life out of America, i.e. someone who is corrupt in government, someone who blocks new measures within government or someone who is hindering progress. Is does not mean that there is literally Vampires within the U.S. government!

And the third and final flaw in Grahame-Smith’s argument was the photo’s he uses for evidence. Some of the images (even from looking on my Kobo) look photo-shopped! Some are just pictures of normal people who Grahame-Smith says are ‘probably’ Vampires. Why? Why are they Vampires? They look like normal people to me! They don’t even have the resemblance to Vampires which Grahame-Smith gives in the book! Whilst some of the images used were painted after Lincoln’s death by people who had never met him and had never been at the events they were painting. I could paint a picture of Lincoln with an axe in his hand and a dead Vampire at his feet, but it does not mean he was a Vampire Hunter, it is just a picture!

I know I have been hard on this book (and my review is a little long!) but as a historian I have to look at the evidence Grahame-Smith gives for his argument and I find that evidence very weak. However it does not mean I didn’t enjoy this book, I loved it! I thought it was an interesting concept and as I have said, at times Grahame-Smith does a good job of making it believable by coinciding events in Lincoln’s journal with actual historical facts. All I would say is that as a piece of analytical, historical argument it is lacking, but as a novel it is great!

I would suggest this book to anyone who is a fan of Vampire novels or is a fan of Abraham Lincoln, as the book does have an interesting concept!

For author’s official website click here

P.S. Don’t forget to enter my FREE Book of the Month Competition for your chance to win The Children of Hurin by J. R. R. Tolkien. To enter just follow the widget bellow and for more info please click here. a Rafflecopter giveaway

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