Vamp-O-Rama is finally finished! After months of reading, all the bloodsuckers have been slain and the world is safe and sound. For now at least, our enemy is defeated and licking its wounds. But sooner or later, the vampire scourge will return to wreck literary havoc on us all. (Hint: The Passage is in The Bookish Kind's Pilot Season, and The Fall comes out this September. Vamps aren't going anywhere.)
This also marks the last book review on Mr. Controversy, as the literary content will be handled exclusively by the spin off blog The Bookish Kind. It wouldn't have been possible without my good friends at Hachette Book Group, specifically my contact/"dealer" in free books, Miriam Parker. I've contacted a few publishers about their "books for bloggers" programs, and so far the three that have been the best receptive are Hachette, Hard Case Crime, and Harper Collins; and I thank all three of these publishers for maintaining their relationships with the Internet press and enabling me access to their books in advance. You all make this possible with your kindness and your quality output. Diversion aside, time to start the show.
A couple Halloweens ago, my youngest brother needed a costume idea. Naturally, he'd waited until the tenth hour to try and get a costume. It wasn't quite eleventh hour, which was when Mom swooped in and gave him a different costume, but it was still late enough that most of the other kids got to most of the proper costumes. In a fit of creative desperation (and limited options), I grabbed a sword, some Darth Vader gloves, and a historically famous beard. My idea: I was going to make my brother Abraham Lincoln...The American Ass-Kicker, complete with bad assed sword, gloves, and leather jacket. Had Mom not stepped in with something else, my brother would have been the precursor to the book I'm about to review...and I would have had a very solid case for copyright infringement.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter starts with the author, Seth Grahame-Smith, inserting himself into the story as a mundane shop clerk who runs into a rather interesting patron. One that doesn't age, happens to be quite pale, and while he has a strong dislike of sunlight DOESN'T FUCKING SPARKLE! It is the vampire Henry Sturges, friend and associate of Abraham Lincoln and custodian to his long lost personal diaries. Diaries that paint the President as a man of deep sadness and loss, caused from day one by the vampire scourge who set out to overtake America by means of the slave trade. Throughout his life, he would continue to fight them, which would continue to bring him sorrow and loss up until the very day he would be taken from this Earth all too soon, leaving the Great Work still to be done.
If this is starting to sound a bit much for you, then this isn't the book for you. If this seems like weak tea compared to your expectations, then this isn't your thing either. Indeed, the book walks a fine line between historical fan fiction and historical fact, as it grafts the vampire storyline into Honest Abe's own true life story. His triumphs, his failures, his sadness and woes are all linked somehow to vampires; and somehow Grahame-Smith does it in such a way that it blends in well with the facts to make an interesting piece of Adventure Fantasy. Abe is painted as a Bruce Wayne-esque vigilante, who swears to kill every vampire in America after his mother's life is claimed by their ranks. As his life progresses, and his skills sharpen, we see the stakes raise for him and the risks start to outnumber the rewards. By time the book arrives at its satisfying conclusion, we've seen President Lincoln at his best and his worst.
The only real down side to the book is that it doesn't sufficiently wrap up the author's self insertion storyline with a suitable coda at the end, and the opening scene is going to take a little decoding. (Forgive me for being thick, but that opening for some reason just didn't make all that much sense.) Also, the last little twist the story takes needed just a little more explanation, but I guess it was left as a carrot to demand a sequel. How they'll explain that away is going to be interesting, should there be a sequel and should Grahame-Smith stick around to write it (He let someone else write Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls, the prequel to the smash hit of his originating.)
Mr. Grahame-Smith has written a book that could be used as an educational tool, should educators take the time to read it with their students and parse out the fact from the fiction. While they may seem silly, these literary mash-ups are not only older than most may think, they also have the ability to teach more than they seem to be able to. Take away the silly conceit, and you very much have the life of a former President who dedicated his life to the betterment of the downtrodden and the outnumbered. That in and of itself is the best point of praise for this book, because the blend of history and adventure make Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter very much worth the time and money "secret history" buffs and batshit insane adventure geeks would spend reading it.
One last note, regarding Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov's upcoming adaptation of this book for film: Do the material justice and make this a Miniseries/Limited Series on Cable Television. This isn't going to fit into one film, and it should really be told as a mock History Channel documentary, not a linear action story. It's just the better option.
That's all for the literary adventures being published on Mr. Controversy! Say hello to The Bookish Kind's Pilot Season soon with the upcoming review of Solar by Ian McEwan!
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