Title: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Author: Seth Grahame-Smith
This book was a pleasant surprise. I started it with low expectations, but the amount of research and the quality of the writing quickly won me over. That's not to say that it doesn't have its issues.
The plot behind Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is pretty simple. The author was given Lincoln's secret diaries and tasked to make a story out of them. It reads as a biography, utilizing the tone and tricks of "creative non-fiction," all the while spinning a supernatural, alternate history tale.
At a young age, Abraham Lincoln decides he's going to rid the United States of the scourge of vampires. This is a personal task for him; his mother was killed by a greedy vampire, in order to collect on his father's debt. He works hard to hone both his body and his mind to prepare for the task.
Making a mistake in his own preparations, he almost dies taking on his second vampire. His life is saved unexpectedly by Henry, another vampire. Henry takes him on as a pupil of sorts, teaching him the reality of the vampire world and later providing him with information on vampires deserving to die.
The unlikelihood of this alliance isn't overlooked, as it often is in such tales. It is regularly revisited, with Abraham Lincoln coming to rather logical conclusions as to why he'd continue to play "servant" to one of the creatures he despises and why Henry would want to sacrifice his own kind. I'm rather glad this was actually addressed, as it would have knocked through my suspension of disbelief quite quickly otherwise.
What kept me reading more than anything was the amount of research the author clearly compiled. I'm not a Lincoln scholar, but the story read as a pretty accurate synopsis of Lincoln's life, albeit with a secret vampire plot. It's often hard to tell where the fact ends and the fiction begins, which is, in my opinion, a sign of a job well done.
Seth Grahame-Smith also works hard to make sure that he doesn't allow vampirism to be Lincoln's only motive for destroying slavery. He repeatedly remarks that slavery being used to fuel vampires makes it doubly evil. The last thing I wanted to read was a secret cabal story where the Civil War wasn't really fought over slavery. And it wasn't really fought over state's rights. It was fought over vampires. The line gets pretty attenuated, but overall, I felt like it was handled well.
I was kind of annoyed that the problematic bits of Lincoln's character (besides his struggles with depression) were left out. Also any questions regarding his sexuality. Like many Lincoln tales, this one paints Lincoln as an unquestionable hero, albeit a rather tired one by the end.
I certainly don't think this is a masterpiece, but I did find it worth my while and an enjoyable read.