Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter

While Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter feels like a secret history story, where the author takes the known facts about a person’s actions as unalterable and weaves a story around them,[1] I don’t think it is. I’m no Lincoln expert, but a cursory glance shows that the novel leaves some people and events out, conflates others and generally makes use of poetic license. So it’s not a strict secret history, but it has that ring of verisimilitude by drawing on Lincoln’s actual writings, as well as alternating regularly between conventional third person prose and extracts from Lincoln’s lost diaries. The combined effect reads like a scholarly biography of his secret life as a vampire hunter and I completely dig it.

That’s the thing, you see. This book is upfront about what’s going to happen: Abraham Lincoln will hunt vampires. Additionally, he’ll become a lawyer, a legislator, a congressman and president of the United States, guiding the nation through a civil war. It’s an eventful life.

What really appealed to me about Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter was the matter of fact tone it treats everything with. The author uses a dispassionate voices, weaving together text from Lincoln’s secret diaries with conventional prose and some period texts. Characters may recoil from the notions of vampires lurking in the shadows, but they grit their teeth and get down to work, when all’s said and done.

And despite the scholarly remove, there’s humanity and sympathy for Lincoln. He suffers tremendous trials, losing so many loved ones over the course of his life. He’s prone to abrupt changes in temperament, falling into extended periods of depression. This is probably all part of the historical record — or since been teased from it by tenacious researchers — but Grahame-Smith adds a new dimension to consider when looking at Lincoln in the context of a historical figure in a fictional story.

The following text contains end-of-book spoilers, whited out for your protection:

And at the end of it all, I want to know why the vampire — possibly Henry? — loaned the  Lincoln diaries to the novel’s author. Why does the Union want the story out now? Do they plan to send vampire Abe into the light of day to win the nation over? Fingers crossed for a sequel, particularly if the upcoming film does well.

It’s hard to say much more. The book’s a fun read. Give it a try. Only if you find the notion of Abraham Lincoln fighting vampires utterly repugnant[2] should you steer clear.


[1] A conceit of which Tim Powers is the unassailable master.

[2] And if so, this may not be a blog you wish to follow.

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About Tyler

In the wilds of Vermont.
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