What a fun and bloody concept for a book! I haven’t read many of the literary smashups that have come directly in response to Seth Grahme-Smith’s first novel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but I couldn’t pass this second attempt of his up. And I have to say, I was much more enticed by the movie poster than the book’s cover.
Overall, the book is a fun ride through Lincoln’s life with this new focus on his secret passion of killing every vampire in America. I wasn’t quite sure about the introduction at first, especially the conceit that the author himself had been approached with writing the book by a vampire who was an associate of Lincoln’s, that the author had lost everything in pursuit of completing the manuscript, but this allows for the approach of including entries from Lincoln’s own secret vampire hunting diaries, which does add to the overall not-so-serious tone of this piece. These overused gimmicks are done with the understanding of how ridiculous this tale is, so it only adds to the faked authenticity of the smashup. The silly pictures help too. I couldn’t keep from laughing at some of the doctored photographs.
But even though the book is fun, I was impressed by the amount of research undertaken. This is a deeply complex venture into silliness, the best reason to expend such energy in the first place. Once the story of Lincoln begins, it is very easy to hold your disbelief at bay as he battles to solve America’s great problem of vampires and their hand in slavery.
My only complaint is that I never quite believed Lincoln was one of the most accomplished vampire hunters. The type of vampire in the book is crafted extremely well, as is their involvement in his personal tragedies, which spurs him to hunt them to begin with. But even after training with a vampire sympathetic to his cause, Lincoln is never a true match for any vampire he encounters, even the weakest ones. I like that these creatures are more like the old tales, in which they can’t be killed without being caught off guard, but I can’t figure out why Lincoln tries to engage them in open combat at night every time he hunts them. It seems like some Van Helsing-style raids during the day would have been a better approach.
Other than that, the book plays out well and is definitely worth a read. I haven’t had a chance to see the movie yet, but I’m hoping that if it’s just as fun, it might also present the fights in a more favorable way without losing any human element of the story, which oddly enough, is the true strength of this novel. I know when I finished the book, I wanted to research the civil war, read a biography on Lincoln, and watch Ken Burns’ documentary. That, I think, is a crucial element to fiction like this and the reason that Seth Grahame-Smith will continue to be at the head of the genre. As silly as the smashup may be, it can pay great homage to the totally serious and inspire us to revisit important aspects of ourselves, both as individuals and as a country.