08 April 2010

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (Annotation 6)

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter... written by Seth Grahame-Smith... published by Grand Central... 2010.

I, probably like many other readers, expected this book to be somewhat light-hearted and campy. It really wasn't though. It is essentially a biography of Abraham Lincoln, from about age 9 through death, with a vampire storyline added into it. The book is divided into three sections: Boy, Vampire Hunter, and President.

The story opens with Abe hunting... turkey hunting, that is. He is going over and over what his father told him about a proper kill shot, so that the animal doesn't suffer more than necessary. He needs to hit the body, not the neck. Abe sets his sights on a turkey, but his shot is off... he hits it in the neck. He sees the look of fear and panic in the eyes of the turkey as it is hanging on and gasping for life. This affects him greatly; he refuses to take part in the dinner made of his kill. It also affects his later hunts. It is not much later, at the age of 9, that Abe's mother dies. At the time, it is from what is called the "milk sickness," believed to be brought on by tainted milk. Abe finds himself in a position to overhear a conversation between his father and someone who has lent him money. He discovers that his mother has actually died of a "fool's dose" of vampire blood (she has been made to ingest vampire blood, but not in such a way that will turn her into one of them). Abe vows then and there to kill every vampire in America.

He begins training himself and at the age of twelve, tricks the money lender (who is a vampire) to come to the Lincoln home. Abe "negotiates" with the vampire to cancel his father's debt. At the age of 16, Abe hears of a rash of young victims who are found drained of blood, not too far from his southern Indiana home. Abe finds and attacks this vampire, but his skills are not yet up for the challenge. He is rescued by someone named Henry. Abe wakes later in Henry's home, only to find that Henry is a vampire. They eventually talk, and Henry takes it upon himself to train Abe in the fight. Abe agrees, and becomes an excellent student. When he leaves, Abe agrees to take letters from Henry which will tell him the names and locations of vampires "who deserve it (death) sooner." This is all inter-woven with all of the factual information on the life of Lincoln. Grahame-Smith deals with Abe's difficult relationship with his father, life with his step-mother and step-siblings, and Abe's struggles to find work along the Ohio River to help support his family.

From then, the author takes us into Abe's early adulthood and somewhat beyond. We see Abe and his family moving into Illinois. Abe continues to find work. He begins building boats, which will then carry and sell goods down the Mississippi... all the way into New Orleans. Throughout this time, Abe continues to hunt when he can. In New Orleans, he meets up with a very interesting acquaintance, who also shows up later during Abe's time in Washington, D.C. The "Vampire Hunter" section shows Abe doing a lot of that, but it also gives the reader a lot of real information about Lincoln. After the age of 21, Abe no longer has to give all of his wages to his father, so he breaks out on his own. He tries various things, including working in, and later owning a retail store. He also runs for the state legistlature, and spends some time with that. We also see Abe fall in love, and make some unexpected friends. He begins his law practice, and continues to stay involved in politics. Eventually, he meets up with Henry again; and Henry introduces him to some very influential friends, who tell Abe they have big plans... in which he plays a large part.

Abe goes on to become president, of course, and his hunts are few and far between at this point. Vampires actually end up playing a large part in the Civil War, and Henry maintains contact with Abe. Actually, a lot of the "President" section focuses on Abe's factual life; the vampire elements are somewhat lessened here. The author takes the reader through the Civil War and on up through Abe's assassination. He deals with Abe's death, and the following events, in a very interesting way; and I don't want to spoil it for any potential readers.

Personally, I really enjoyed this book. I think I enjoyed it even more when it became clear that this wasn't going to be a campy story. It takes itself very seriously, and has a pretty serious tone throughout. It presents Abe as a tragic figure, and I guess in many ways he really was; but the fictional part shows him as a complex anti-hero. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is interested, and even those who are simply curious. It's a quick read, and you may actually be surprised to find that you enjoyed it.

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