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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

Indiana, 1818. Moonlight falls through the dense woods that surround a one-room cabin, where a nine-year-old Abraham Lincoln kneels at his suffering mother's bedside. She's been stricken with something the old-timers call "Milk Sickness." "My baby boy..." she whispers before dying. Only later will the grieving Abe learn that his mother's fatal affliction was actually the work of a vampire. …

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

by Seth Grahame-Smith

Overall Book Review:

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a remarkable book. The depth of the story far exceeded my expectations. Seth Grahame-Smith paints a picture of Lincoln that is a portrait of strength, determination, and sacrifice in the face of personal and national tragedy. Although some readers may find it irreverent to use a great man and legendary leader of the United States in a fictional action book for entertainment, Grahame-Smith endeavors to preserve an air of dignity and honor in the character of Lincoln. Although it is immediately obvious, due to the words “Vampire Hunter” in the title, that the book is not a history textbook, the author went to great lengths to make the historical aspect of “historical fiction” as accurate as possible. It’s clear that a great deal of research went into the writing of this book. The text is interspersed with actual quotes from Lincoln and other historical figures, and the setting is woven so skillfully that it is sometimes hard to determine where the fiction ends and the facts begin. The historical facts imparted as the reader enjoys this book are almost as entertaining as the story. This is a good book from start to finish, and I look forward to reading more of Grahame-Smith’s works.

Content Analysis:

Profanity/Language:  12 religious exclamations; 23 mild obscenities; 2 religious profanities; 5 derogatory names; 1 scatological word; 1 anatomical term; 1 offensive hand gesture. Note:  Several uses of the word “negro” in a historical context are not counted in this tally. Several uses of the words “God”, “hell”, and variations of “damn” are also not tallied when they are used in a religious context, rather than as an obscenity.

Violence/Gore: The book opens with a character bleeding from mysterious injury; a door is kicked in and a character shot at in a humorous scene; a character begs another to kill him; a character contemplates killing others; reports of thousands killed in battles, uprisings, or riots; reports of serial killing; a poem about suicide is quoted; characters consider suicide (two instances); mention of various mischief, such as rock throwing; two reports of past deaths; several mentions of blood drinking; a few reports of attempted or carried out assassinations; report of a character hanged; mention of past car accident; a few reports of past murders without details; report of a theft; description of dead bodies; characters hear unexplained screams and nighttime noises; a few reports of characters murdered in grotesque ways with details such as brains and blood described; recount of killing of women and children; a few fights without serious injuries; female character is bitten on her breasts; a scene where a character is slightly injured and an animal is killed, with the animal death described in lingering detail; a character is cut by knives and held underwater in an attempted drowning; character is beaten by a club; slaves are whipped; character’s faces are burned; a scene where a character is pistol-whipped, a helpless character is stabbed in the face and neck, and children are stabbed; a character attempts suicide; a creepy scene including kidnapping and a character stabbed through the heart; a Bible is burned; crosses are burned; a few instances of building arson; a character kills himself by impaling; a few characters die of disease; a few characters are poisoned, with details of physical suffering and hallucinations given; a character commits suicide by drowning; a character breaks his neck in a fall; a character dies in childbirth; a character is tortured and burned to death; a murder/suicide; two innocent characters killed after a mock trial; character kills a child by biting; a scene in which a character is shot in the head, another stabbed in the arm, and a character’s leg broken; a character is butchered and scalped; gory scene in which a character is stabbed in the heart and bleeds from eyes and mouth before dying; scene where men, women, and children are killed by bites, dismemberment, and shooting; detailed recount of a child shredded to pieces; a few scenes where characters are killed with an axe; a human body is dissected in an anatomy class; characters are kept in a state of near death to harvest their blood; a few scenes where characters are killed by fangs, claws, crushing blows, dismemberment, broken necks, shooting, or beheading; characters are hung up on hooks and slaughtered in a couple of scenes; a character is run over by a train with gory injury detailed; a corpse on the battlefield is described in detail, with brain and entrails being eaten by crows; characters are killed on the battlefield, with cannon and shrapnel injuries detailed; description of a body with the head mostly missing; gory scene in which characters are shot, a body part is severed, bones are broken, and blood is spilled from containers until it is inches deep, with characters covered in it; detailed report of characters sawed in half while still living.

In addition to the text, this book contains pictures, some of which contain the following violent content: A character being shot in the head; characters beheading another character; photo of a surgeon examining a surgically-opened person; painting of a man with an axe standing over bloody bodies (this one is slightly graphic).

Sex/Nudity:  A character thinks of the woman he loves, imagining holding her hand; character is awkward around a girl he likes; character recounts a first kiss; characters carry on a chaste love affair; characters flirt, dance, hug, kiss, and hold hands; artwork is described as containing bare-breasted women; slaves are naked at an auction (no sexual connotation); a blow-up doll is mentioned; prostitution is mentioned a few times; teen characters have a love affair hidden from their parents; a harem is mentioned; it is implied that some slave owners use their female slaves for sex; a character offers to hire a prostitute for another character; a bawdy joke about a prostitute; reference to a woman “sharing a man’s bed”; the word “whore” is used as a profession, not a slur; two characters have sex with no details given; characters go to a room in a brothel, and sex is implied; report that two women had a love affair; characters have an affair, with no details given; a female character is bitten on her breasts; report that two women had sex while a person was hung above them, dripping blood onto them from wounds; a character takes six women to bed with him at one time, and sex is said to occur, but no details are given.

Mature Subject Matter:

Mental illness (schizophrenia, depression), death of a family member, death of a child, death of a friend, suicide (considered, attempted, and carried out in different scenes), marital separation, lesbianism, arson, political corruption, prostitution, theft, kidnapping, war, slavery, racial persecution.

Alcohol / Drug Use:

Adults smoke cigarettes and pipes and drink liquor; a character is an alcoholic; heroine is mentioned.

Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

My taste in literature leans heavily towards sci-fi, fantasy, and (my favorite) horror, and the latter can present some fairly murky waters for parents to let their children explore. I enjoy novels of both the standard and graphic varieties. Since those genres, and graphic novels in particular, tend to appeal to boys, I hope that I can help other Boy Mommies in their quest to find books that their little video gamers--I mean, future bibliophiles will read and enjoy. When I am not reading, I enjoy tabletop role-playing games, video games, and singing karaoke. I have a wonderful husband who lets me indulge my reading habit by sharing the housework and being a great dad to our genius kids and their faithful hound.