Honest Abe Draws Blood
Author Seth Grahame-Smith struck literary gold when he combined the brilliance of Jane Austen with the bone-crunching madness of the walking dead to create the New York Times' best seller "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies." With this novel under his belt and a resulting prequel, Grahame-Smith's latest release proves that raising the undead is not only popular, but a way to bring new readers to old themes.
With the success of "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" and resulting prequel "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls," Grahame-Smith's recent release uses a similar formula. This time, instead of using a classic work of fiction, Grahame-Smith retells the life and times of a historically iconic American figure, and spices it up with some blood-sucking creatures of the night. The result; "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter."
Although this popular genre of fiction may seem to be wearing thin, and despite other literary releases of similar type such as "Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters," Grahame-Smith's revisionist approach is one that has not only found appreciation from both intellectuals and unseasoned readers alike, but has also sparked interest in Grahame-Smith's literary derivatives.
Samantha Flicker, SMC English major, is one student whose background in English literature gives weight to her opinion of Grahame-Smith's innovative approach.
"I am usually very opinionated when it comes to movie adaptations or re-inventions of one of my favorite stories, [but] I actually loved "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies," said Flicker.
Flicker went on to state that the zombification of classics made reading seem more approachable. After some of her friends picked up the book due to its undead theme, they started asking her about the original Austen story.
"Once they realize that the language is not nearly as difficult as they had feared, they slowly grow to love the original Austen story and move on to read other stories by Austen," Flicker said.
The book opens with a package and letter being delivered to a character named Seth Grahame-Smith (we need not guess who this character is modeled after). A once-aspiring writer who now works as a cashier, Seth Grahame-Smith opens the package to discover ten leather-bound books, written by the sixteenth president himself, along with instructions to turn them into an original manuscript.
The subsequent story unfolds to narrate Abraham Lincoln's formative years, ascension into political notoriety and subsequent demise. After a vampire murders his mother, Lincoln vows to destroy the undead, waging war against all vampires as he proceeds through his extraordinary life.
Like its literary predecessor "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies," which used 85 percent of Jane Austen's original text according to a review in the New York Times, "Vampire Hunter" follows suit by accurately depicting the history of Lincoln's life, while adding entertaining action, and at times humorous events as causal reasons for what propelled Lincoln into some of his most famous political endeavors.
With an acute sense of revisionism, Grahame-Smith artfully subverts famously historical events, such as the Civil War and Emancipation Proclamation, to make the reader believe that these events were in fact caused by the undead and Lincoln's hate for vampires.
"I loved ‘Vampire Hunter,'" said SMC student and history major Dominique Moreau. "I've read all of [Grahame-Smith's] books. I couldn't put any of them down. [His work] is like looking at a piece of fine art while the world is ending. I can't wait for his next appeal to history and classicism."
Although Smith Graham's work has been widely accepted and praised for its use of classic literature and historical figures, some people believe his work to be a subversion of literary integrity.
"'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies' was a sad attempt at using something from popular culture and trying to meld it with a classic work of literature to make money," said SMC student Gabriel Argueta. "[Grahame-Smith] took a classic and ruined it with a shallow piece of American pop-culture. I skimmed through ["Vampire Hunter"] and found it to be the same tired formula."
With the use of such classic novels and iconic figures, there's no wonder why Grahame-Smith's works have been met with such controversy. Yet, with many flocking to the bookshelves with each of Grahame-Smith's releases, and its current number six standing on the New York Times' best seller list, it seems that his use of this formula will keep selling, and selling well.