Saturday, July 17, 2010

Book Review: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

ImageGrahame-Smith, Seth, (2010). Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. New York: Grand Central Publishing. Photo source: Amazon.com

Until I read Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, I hadn’t realized how much the readability of Seth Grahame-Smith’s previous book, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, was derived from the original. While I admired the near seamless integration of zombies into Alcott’s social commentary, I considered the result more of a collaboration than an outright theft.

In Lincoln, Grahame-Smith attempts an interesting technique. After setting up the situation where a failed writer—how’s that for another cliché?—comes into possession of Abraham Lincoln’s secret diaries, Grahame-Smith randomly switches voice and often tense by inserting sections from the diaries into his narrative. The result read like a tenth-grade history paper in which the author is desperately trying to meet the teacher’s length requirement. Instead of abetting the flow of the story, the device constantly knocks the reader out of the story.

Character development is lacking. Who would have thought anyone could depict Abe Lincoln as a flat, uninspiring character. If that was Grahame-Smith’s intent, he succeeded.

One of the best things I can say about the book is that I found no glaring grammatical errors and no blatant historical inaccuracies. Aside from vampires, and they are a given.

I can’t say if this is a good thing or not, but I was completely unable to categorize Lincoln, not that I’m a true believer in forcing art to fit into neat little boxes. Lincoln is not a vampire story, nor is it really historical fiction. It is neither folkloric nor alternative history, neither enthralling nor fatiguing.

None of this is to say you shouldn’t read Lincoln. It is a quick read and fairly entertaining. It passes my three question test.

  • Did I finish it?Yes. This, in and of itself, speaks volumes. I don’t have much time to read for pleasure anymore, and I stuck with this book to the predictable end.
  • Was it worth the effort?Maybe. As I said, it is a quick, relatively entertaining read. Granted, it feels like Lincoln was written before P&P&Z and was published solely on the success of that book.
  • How many other books did I finish in the process of reading this one? None. I did wander off into a couple of real histories—but they were only a minor distraction

Using a five-star scale, Lincoln rates a solid two stars. It’s worth reading in an airport or on a train, but save it for a trip.

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