"The Last American Vampire" Book Review
Written by Seth Grahame-Smith
2015, 416 pages, Fiction
Released on January 13th, 2015
When friend and fellow reviewer James sent me a link of Seth Grahame-Smith's novel, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, I had two immediate thoughts. The first was, "That's clever." The second was, "I'll wait for the movie." I loved the title, I loved the idea of it, but it also felt a little gimmicky, like something The Asylum does with movies (which is ironic because of Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies). Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a lot of what comes from The Asylum, but there's a difference between investing 90 minutes for a film and hours to read a book. And once I found out that this was the same guy that wrote Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, it solidified my decision to wait for the inevitable movie version of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, because gimmick.
When I saw the press release for The Last American Vampire, the follow up to Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, I had a bit of a different feeling about wanting to invest the time. First, I had seen and really enjoyed the movie based on its predecessor. Second, did you see that cover up there? That's art. Yeah, yeah, don't judge a book by its cover and all that, but whatever. That cover really caught my eye. And in this current world of rising self-publishers that we live in, where people just don't seem to care about cover art much anymore, it's nice to see someone still investing the time in eye-catching artwork; this is something really slick, even for a bigger publisher. So, because of those two reasons, I decided to give the novel a shot. After the first chapter, I was chastising myself for blowing off the first book.
The first thing that struck me as interesting with The Last American Vampire is the voice Grahame-Smith chooses to write in. The story is told from the point of view of Henry Sturges, good old Abe's sidekick as well as being the vampire that showed the 16th president how to slay bloodsuckers in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. But here's what makes it fun: the tale is actually being transcribed by Grahame-Smith. So you have Sturges telling the story to Grahame-Smith, who's writing it all down, with Sturges clarifying things within the novel as necessary. It's all very meta.
The Last American Vampire offers up an alternate universe (or does it?!?) where the overall arc of the book has Sturges attempting to find the identity of an unknown and very evil vampire who is taking out members of The Union. See, there are two types of groups in the bloodsucking community. One group – The Union – consists of the good guys, and one of its major goals is to pretty much protect mankind from the others who hate humans. So when a super-vampire is running around offing members of The Union, Sturges is recruited to find the culprit.
One of my favorite parts about this book is the arc is just a plot device to take Sturges all throughout time, where he runs into famous people through history, including Mark Twain, Nikola Tesla, Rasputin, Bram Stoker, and many, many more. In addition, he also plays a part in major historical moments. There are now alternate (and totally believable) explanations for the Hindenburg crash and what really happened to those settlers in Roanoke, Virginia, back in the day. The pictures and footnotes sprinkled throughout the book only add realistic feel of this alternate history – a word of warning, though, check those notations under the pictures after you've read through the chapter because there's at least one that totally strips out any suspense if you read it beforehand.
At just over 400 pages, The Last American Vampire moves at a breakneck speed, taking you from one glorious adventure in time to another. While there is that overall arc I mentioned above, that's really nothing more than a plot device to move Sturges through time, and I'm okay with that because it's so much fun.
You don't need to read Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter to have a blast here. I only saw the movie, and I still enjoyed this book from start to finish, and I never felt lost at all. Seth Grahame-Smith has crafted one hell of good time with The Last American Vampire. Seriously, how many other books have a bloodsucker hobnobbing it with some of the most important people in history, all while saving mankind from a scourge of evil and having tongue planted firmly in cheek the entire time? Because you'll get all that and more here.