For my regular followers, you know that I am a huge fan of vampire stories. Most of them, admittedly, are of the sexy PNR or definitely non-terrifying YA type. In the Last American Vampire, by Seth Grahame-Smith, we are certainly not in either of those types. I found myself squarely in the blood and gore of the horror genre with this one. That’s ok as I used to be a very big fan of that genre and still venture into the waters from time to time. But these days, that’s a toe at a time once in a blue moon – I am not usually running at light speed to dive in head first. Instead I read things like Twilight with the sparkly vampires, Accidentally Dead with your potty-mouth vampire and steamy scenes, or A Taste of the Nightlife with your vampire chefs. Not the dark and scary vampire stories that are going to make it hard for me to sleep at night.
Here’s why we don’t fit into my favorite two genres. I don’t think Henry and I know for sure Abe and don’t fit the sexy PNR vampire mold. Abe is, well… Abraham Lincoln. And can you think of any description of Abraham Lincoln that involve the word sexy? I know I sure can’t. As for Henry, I’m just not sure I had enough information about what he really looked like to qualify him as sexy. And given how frightening and terrifying he was as a vampire, I don’t think I could do it even with a better mental picture what he looked like. That’s not to say scary can’t be sexy. Eric Northman of the True Blood origins certainly was terrifying and sexy. Although I know my favorite Borders (Oh, how I miss you Borders!!!) put Sookie and pals in the Sci/Fi section but there was enough blood and gore in those to make me question what genre they should sit in (and for sure the HBO version is horror…).
I will note that since I read in this genre so rarely these days, I was happy to realize that really just some dumb luck meant that reading Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter first wasn’t really necessary. While it might have been entertaining background I think I had all I needed from what I read here. And I didn’t want to have to go back and read that. At least not at the moment – I really need to read at least one or two things in between each installment of horror these days. Don’t know why, just do.
Another thing that seemed to be stacked against LAV was the fact that I also don’t often read revisionist history novels. The first one I read was Ring and the Crown by Melissa de la Cruz. I wasn’t really convinced after reading that one that I was going to become a big fan of this particular type of sub genre. And I’m still not sure. I won’t say there was anything in either book to make me steer clear, but neither one of them made a believer out of me either. As for this particular book, it was an interesting take on “history” and some of the more important events of the 20th century. It was set up so that it felt like the reading of a memoir, and it was littered with actual facts and even a real photo or two sprinkled throughout. I think the real photos (although I have absolutely no idea if any of them are Photoshoped) were some of the more enjoyable highlights of this book.
I take issue with the author’s desire to make almost every single important event in American history revolve around the main vampire, Henry, and his compatriots including the resurrected Abraham Lincoln. However, I loved the first part of the book, the story centered around Jack the Ripper. And thinking of Henry and Abe as spies was cool. It was a neat way to think of the former 16th President. As the book moved towards its culmination, a lot of the intervening events that Henry and Abe participated in didn’t add much to the plot. But the end was exciting. And there were throats ripped open, impalings, explosions, murders, and all the typical horrors one would expect from a vampire epic in this genre. And, most of the time, it wasn’t gratuitous. Sounds like an oxy-moron doesn’t it? A vampire horror story with only mostly non-gratuitous violence? But that made me like it all the more.
The book was well written. The story was clever. The characters, for the most part, were interesting and fun. It was pretty neat to impose the world the author built on the likes of Mark Twain, Nikolai Tesla, Teddy Roosevelt and others. For the most part it was thoroughly enjoyable. Despite the fact that it was a little bit lacking in humor – a quality I believe necessary as a counterbalance to the violence (even as non-gratuitous as it was) that the author didn’t shy away from (and I guess that’s fitting given that this is probably classified as horror) it’s also not as dark as I expected. While I hadn’t read Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter I had seen the movie and it seemed a fairly dark movie. I know movies can be vastly different than the books they are based on, but it influenced my expectations nonetheless. As a result, I expected much darker out of this book. There was darkness but there were pleasant surprises and moments of levity even if they fell short of being classified as humor.
The format took a little getting used to at first. The flipping between the narrator and Henry for a few chapters left me sometimes feeling like the rug had been pulled out from underneath me. But a reread of the sentence or paragraph was all it took to solve that, and eventually, that feeling faded away. Although I sort of wish there was a reminder telling me who the narrator was and how to tell what was Henry’s actual words versus what the narrator filled in on the jacket so it would be an easy reference point. Although I guess that wasn’t really critical to the plot and how things ended up and it didn’t slow me down too much.
Bottom line: for someone who no longer reads as much horror as I used to I really enjoyed it. If I stumble across the first book I’ll definitely read it. And I would absolutely recommend Last American Vampire to anyone who read Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Letting the quality of LAV speak for both books, I will say that I would recommend both to the fans of the horror genre, even without having read Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Twilight fans need not apply, as these are definitely not your sparkly vampires.