‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ stakes its claim to greatness
L.A. TIMES BOOK REVIEW
Hero Complex contributor Gina McIntyre digs into a new horror novel and finds herself surprised by the undead success…
It would be easy to dismiss the new book “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” as little more than a novelty. The title sounds more like a great “Saturday Night Live” sketch than a compelling read, and its author, Seth Grahame-Smith, was responsible for last year’s good-natured Jane Austen sendup, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.”
But Grahame-Smith’s sophomore effort outlasts the kitsch value of its title, and freed from the constraints of updating (or defacing, depending on one’s viewpoint) a revered literary gem, the writer delivers a well-constructed, surprisingly satisfying narrative that straight-faces its absurd premise: that Honest Abe, the 16th president of the United States, led a secret life slaying the fanged undead.
The book opens with a brief prologue in which a mysterious man, identified only as Henry, unexpectedly leaves a package and a strange letter with a character named Seth Grahame-Smith. A once aspiring writer who has settled into a cashier’s job at a small-town five-and-dime store, Grahame-Smith finds himself in possession of 10 leather-bound volumes penned by Lincoln with instructions from Henry to adapt them into his own original manuscript. The story that follows recasts the events of Lincoln’s life, from his boyhood up through his assassination, in a supernatural light. The death of his mother at the hands of a vampire drives Lincoln to eradicate the creatures, and he pursues his goal for decades, first striking out at night with his trusty ax to dispatch the ghouls, then using his skills as a world-class orator and politician to end slavery, which, here, is a horror perpetuated by plantation owners in league with the undead.
The set-up works brilliantly …
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– Gina McIntyre
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