I have a hard and fast rule are far as books are concerned, and that is if I buy it, I read it. All of it, no matter how bad it is. And I have read some stinkers. But this book I am about to review is absolutely the worst book I have ever read in my life, and my purpose in telling you about it is so you don't spend good money on a bad product. Twice.
"Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter" was written by Seth Grahame-Smith, and published in 2012 by the Hachette Book Group. It is currently the property of 20th Century Fox and has been made into a Tim Burton motion picture, which will be released in theaters this Friday.
When I first heard of the movie, I was actually anxious to read the book. I am a big Abe Lincoln fan, having grown up in Illinois and also having worked for two summers during college as a tour guide at Lincoln's Tomb in Springfield. I had no problem with Abe being used as the subject of a fiction novel. He was, as a matter of fact, featured prominently in Clive Cussler's book "Sahara," although all references to old Abe were cut out when the motion picture based on the book was filmed. (Nope, not going to elaborate, you are just going to have to read it to find out). I enjoyed that book greatly.
I also have no aversion to vampires, per se. I have purchased and read all of the "Twilight" books so that I can have them on hand for the grandkids, and those books are well-written and very entertaining. I also enjoyed the "Twilight" movies, and am looking forward to the last of those which has yet to be released. I am an avid watcher of "True Blood," and am looking forward to seeing "Dark Shadows."
But this was neither a well-written book about vampires, nor a piece of historical fiction into which vampires were masterfully inserted. Grahame-Smith simply took parts of the history of Abraham Lincoln and stuck in vampires, apparently for the sake of doing it, and in doing so made Lincoln appear to have been so obsessed with vampires he did nothing with his life but hunt them down and murder them; the good things he did throughout his life being depicted as accidental side effects of the vampire killings.
The book begins with a bookshop owner and frustrated novelist, who encounters a vampire in his shop. Said vampire presents the bookshop owner with a set of books that turn out to be the never-before-discovered private journals of Abraham Lincoln, and the vampire asks the bookstore owner to write a book based on the journals. And from there it gets worse.
The first chapters are really based on history, and tell what is known of the young lives of Thomas and Nancy Hanks Lincoln. The book continues on with the life of young Abraham, until after the death of his mother.
At that point, it gets just plain weird, with vampires suddenly materializing out of people who, up until now, we all thought were just normal folks like you and me.
The historical references and accounts were accurate; however, we are talking about a well-known and beloved historical figure about whom much is known. The accurate historical references in this book would be known to most American elementary school children, and did not take a lot of research to glean.
And I strongly object to what was done to the historical plates and photographs presented throughout the book. The author admits they were the product of a liberal use of Photoshop. Some of them are beloved photos that have been presented in horrible ways to present Abe in all his vampire slaying glory, including several presenting Lincoln and Edgar Allen Poe as vampire-hunting buds. Photographs are the property of the person who created them, and I absolutely cannot condone this type of creative abuse simply for the purpose of writing a story.
However, I admire the effort it takes to write a relatively coherent 400-page book about anything, and I am willing to give this book a 1 out of 10 for that reason and that reason alone. But I recommend this book for no one, and I cannot imagine the movie will be any better.