Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
is a novel purporting to tell the secret history of vampires in America, who in the 19th century were hunted by none less than our sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln. When I first began this book, I was hoping for something along the lines of the degree of awesomess of, say, this painting of George Washington fighting a Bengal tiger on a boat during a hurricane.
Unfortunately, what I got was a book that mangled the lessons behind American history and the true personality of our great president in an attempt to be funny and strike that same chord of humor. This book contained so many moments that could have been truly great, truly funny, amplifying a period in American history we are all familiar with from history classes and adding to it a little mystery and horror, but it failed almost every time.
Firstly, there is the issue of using a real-life, public figure like Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was a complicated man, who rose from basically nothing to become a lawyer and then a president. He dabbled in politics a few times, never seemed to truly enjoy being in the limelight and sought to further his beliefs, not his own ambition. In the book, Lincoln has these qualities, but with the strange addition of a lust for killing vampires. I have to ask, does the man quoted below sound like he would go after intelligent beings with morals and values that differ between individuals just like human beings?I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.
andThe best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.
No, he does not, and I don't think that Abraham Lincoln would have been sucked into vampire hunting, even if, as the book suggests, some of his closest family members were killed by vampires. It's one thing to pick fictional characters, or invent a character from history to go on a vampire-killing rampage, but if you pick a well-known person like Lincoln, you have to stay true to his character, and this book does not. It rings false.
Now. This alone made the book difficult to read. Other plot inconsistencies and weirdness made it even more difficult. For example, Lincoln's vampire friend Henry supposedly came along on the ill-fated expedition to the New World that settled at Roanoke Colony, which eventually disappeared, one of those cool little mysteries of American history. According to Henry's account, only he and another vampire lived at the end of the Roanoke ordeal. Then, what did they live on? No indication is given in the book of vampires surviving on animal blood. Did they hunt Native Americans? Did they bide their time and find other colonial settlements? How did they integrate themselves into the often small groups of settlers who came along?
Aside from plot inconsistencies, the book itself is often inconsistent. The dialogue is often wrong for the period, jarring especially when chapters are begun with actual valid Lincoln quotes. The use of excerpts from the "diary" seems random. Why quote some parts and paraphrase others - why not quote or paraphrase the entire thing? (Funnily enough, Lincoln apparently lapses into third person during an excerpt on page 240 of my copy.) The diary was basically entirely not necessary. It serves just as the background for the book and for the author to put himself (or a Mary Sue
) in the book. No explanation is given for why the diary was given to the author, except that the vampire who gives it to him has recognized his extraordinary literary genius.
There are some good portions of this book. The bits of it done from John Wilkes Booth's point of view (although inconsistent with the book: how did the author know what John Wilkes Booth was thinking? Lincoln certainly did not put that down in his diary) are well-written, and actually made me wish the whole thing was done from his perspective. I initially thought the "photo evidence" was just silly, but it actually ended up being kind of funny, and seeing famous historical photos doctored to add vampires was pretty good. (Though, if fire is painful to vampires, as is light, you would think the extremely bright flashes from cameras of the day would severely injure them.)
The humor potential of this book is there, but never quite reached. I think the author ought to stick to fictional characters, as there are just too many questions that arise, and inconsistencies that have to be explained, when one plays around with a historical figure like Lincoln.