Considering my first fictional work to be published (The Ascension Legacy) was part of a grande series involving elves, dwarves, orcs, trolls, and the like from the high fantasy genre it might come as a shock to some that the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and R.A. Salvatore are not my all-time favorite book. While I have read several books by both authors and love their work, I'm not going sit here and sound like just another fanboy extolling the great works of these admittedly legendary writers. Almost everybody knows their works either through reading the books, TV shows and movies based on those books, or even video games that draw inspiration or source material from them. We can scarcely look anywhere today without seeing the influence of these two great authors so they don't need me to promote them.
Instead, the book that I have favored over all others since its release in 2010 is Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer by Seth Grahame-Smith.
But Gary, wasn't that the name of an awful movie that was released in 2012?
Yes, but don't let the movie scare you away from the book. It is often said that movies based on books do the books a great injustice in how poorly the movie studios treat the conversion of the printed work to the silver screen. The 2012 movie based on this book is the absolute epitome of such failure.
Grahame-Smith's written work expertly blended history and fiction. The book starts with Lincoln's own childhood and follows him through life, even up to his historic and unfortunate assassination. Readers really feel the level of research that was put into Lincoln's personal history to find elements of the real man's life that were best able to be intermixed with the fantasy of vampire slaying without losing the humanity, the true complexity, of the situation.
The book covers difficult periods in Lincoln's life, including the death of children and family members that were real events that the real Lincoln dealt with. And even when the author took those tragic events and painted a fictional picture around the edge of the darkness that we as living souls feel in those moments of loss and mourning, the story was riveting. Not because it made me, as a reader, forget about Lincoln's emotional pain or because it made light of a tragic event with the inclusion of vampires but because the author made us feel Lincoln's anger, rage, sadness, and then smartly tied that sense of emotion into a great and powerful motivation to fight these super-strong supernatural creatures of the night.
The writing is so well done that it would be easy for someone to forget that they were reading a fictional story that just happened to include real people and places from history. It reads more like lost stories left out of history books than a work of pure fantasy meant only for entertainment.
This was, for me, one of those books that sucked you in from the page. I'll never forget being in an airport about to get on a plane for a business trip and seeing this book in one of the stores near my flight's gate. I grabbed the book, paid the cashier, sat down to wait for my flight, and started reading. I was so engrossed in the book that I didn't realize my flight was boarding until after they had called my group. I just happened to look up and saw a crowd of people waiting to board and others intermittently filing through onto the jetway. I rushed to gather my things so I could board but no sooner than I had found my seat and settled in I went right back to reading.
I could not stop reading that book until I had finished the whole thing.
In the years since then I have continued to love that book and tell others about it when asked about my reading recommendations. That is always the first book I tell people about. Of course, I immediately warn them not to watch the movie, especially not before they read the book.
If you are a fan is history, this book is very respectful to the history of Abraham Lincoln and the people around him. If you are a fan of vampire books, this book has some very interesting storytelling techniques to intelligently weave vampires into American history. If you are a fan of both history and vampires then this is an absolute must read because it has everything you want and more.