Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter

At the onset of the novel, Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith, we're told that as a young man trying to support his family by working at a five-and-dime store in Rhinebeck, NY, the author was approached with an intriguing proposal by a store regular, Henry. While Henry had always been courteous, unlike many of the condescending weekenders who came into the shop with the oversized cups of coffee yet never spent a dime, they'd never had an in-depth conversation, until the one day Henry questioned why the author had abandoned his writing. While a little annoyed by the question, the author nonetheless gave an honest answer and pointed to his main priorities of wife and kids for putting his life-long dream of being an author on the shelf. One question led to another, each question more personal, and yet he felt compelled for some unknown reason to answer each question. After that strange day, things went back to normal; Henry would come in, exchange polite pleasantries, purchase his goods and leave.

The last time Henry came in, he carried a small package wrapped in brown paper which he placed on the counter and indicated the author should read the note on top of the package first. Unsure of its contents but extremely curious, the author closed the shop a few minutes early and headed to the basement to sneak a cigarette and open the package. The note attached to the package outlined conditions to be agreed to before opening it; including the understanding that the contents where a loan and not a gift, to be protected at all cost, and to be discussed with no one except Henry and the 11 individuals listed on the opposite side of the note. The proposal was that the author would write a manuscript about the contents for which he would be compensated, if it met Henry's approval. If the author could not meet all of the conditions, he was to wait to be contacted for a safe return of the package. If he agreed, he could proceed. As the author states "Well, shit...there was no way I wasn't opening it now." The package contained a bundle of letters and ten leather-bound books of varying sizes, the smallest of which began with "This is the Journal of Abraham Lincoln" and as the author skimmed each book one word kept appearing "Vampire." Convinced Henry was out of his mind and playing a hoax on him, the author gathered the package's contents ready to share a good laugh with his wife about the day's event, only to turn and find:
"Something leaned over me. Its eyes were a pair of black marbles. Its skin a translucent collage of pulsing blue veins. And its mouth -- its mouth could barely contain its wet, glassy fangs. It was Henry. "I'm not going to hurt you", he said. "I just need you to understand."
This book is therefore the author's attempt to finally set the record straight and tell the truth of Honest Abe's life based on those secret journals. A truth not found in any of the 15,000 plus books previously published about his life. The story goes on to relay through journal entries, Lincoln's life-long battle with the forces of darkness, his countless personal sacrifices and sad life of loss, and how those struggles began a war and helped shape a nation.

Wow. I loved this book. A previously vehement detractor of all vampire-related literature, I borrowed this book from a friend out of pure curiosity after seeing the kick-ass trailer for the film which is due for release this Summer. I'm so glad I didn't let my Twilight-related phobia spoil my fun. The book put me in mind of The Da Vinci Code, because like that great book, the storyline in a biographical style was so finely woven and well written that every line becomes almost plausible. A wonderfully original and compelling read, though not for the squeamish or faint of heart.