Review: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

There’s a whole lotta vampires around here lately.  (Not to mention the alternate history.)

Seth Grahame-Smith’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a pastiche of Lincoln biographies (practically a genre of history unto themselves) and horror films, in the vein of the same author’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It works better than it has a right to, really, and as long as one doesn’t think about it too hard, it’s a good time.

Grahame-Smith writes a gripping yarn well, and is adept at aping the genre conventions of both sides of his literary coin. Several chapter transitions seem taken directly from recent Lincoln bios, and the action is all fun and cinematic.  If you know who these historical figures are, it’s fun to see how Grahame-Smith recasts them.  If you’ve never heard of them, you still get a good story of war against vampires.

In this world, vampires are allied with the South for the access to food that slavery brings them.  Lincoln’s prosecution of the Civil War is not so much to preserve the Union as to stamp out the vampires. And therein lies the part of the book that’s problematical.

Certainly the nation’s motivations in the Civil War were complex and not always on the high road; more to the point, Lincoln’s own motivations were never cut and dried.  However, making actual inhuman monsters into the cause of Civil War cheapens the conflict a little more than I’d like for such a light book.  Furthermore, with the introduction of a national conspiracy of “good” vampires (called “the Union”), humans in general are made bit players in the struggle.

Now, there is something conceptually nice about tying slavery to vampirism.  It’s difficult to take an apologist for actual, actual, actual vampires seriously and one should consider slavery apologists in the same vein.  And yet, I still think it simplifies the struggle more than it should.

Now, I have a bad tendency to over analyze, well, everything.  I honestly don’t think that Vampire Hunter stands up to such scrutiny, but I don’t think it’s intended to.  Read as a rip-roaring vampire yarn with occasional winks and nods to our history, it’s a very good time, so I encourage you to read it that way.


One Response to “Review: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”

  1. meg Says:

    I taught *P&P&Z* in my literary theory class this (just-finished) semester. It worked great in the classroom, but my overall verdict was NEEDS MORE ZOMBIES! The zombies didn’t alter the plot at all; it just seemed like a cruel and conniving trick to get people to read *P&P*.

    I’m glad to hear that this isn’t the case for *AL: ZH*. Maybe I’ll teach that next time.