I’m a great fan of gossip and behind-the-scenes books and shows. I’m also history AND genres like science fiction and horror. So the idea that one of America’s greatest presidents was a secret vampire hunter was fascinating to me. I’ve been aware of the Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter book for some time, but I hadn’t picked up until I saw the movie come out. Both were a little lacking to me, in different ways, so this one has the makings of a good ‘Book vs Movie’ post. This is the third book versus movie post I’ve done (see previously: Psycho, and I Am Number Four). It’s very surprising to me that this is the first one that the book actually won.
The plot of both is essentially as expected based on the name. They start with young Abe who is inspired to become a vampire hunter due to the death of his mother at the hands of a vampire. Abe becomes (spoiler alert) President of the United States on the eve of the American Civil War and is commander in chief through the end. They both suppose a fairly large vampire population in the United States. The vampires have been manipulating the southern states so that they can live in the open and have a country of their own. One of the major reasons the southern states clung tenaciously to the institution of slavery was so that the vampires could have an easy source of food. The vampires manipulate the start of the war and participate even to the point of joining Confederate troops on the battle field.
The book was written in a documentary format liberally sprinkled with real and imaginary quotes from Lincoln himself. It weaves in real life historical figures from Lincoln’s time, including a Jefferson Davis dedicated to vampire domination. This style got the job done but I found it hard to really get into the story because of the text book style. The movie obviously doesn’t have that short coming, but it suffered due to the extended time period covered.
Lincoln lived to be 56, and both the book and movie cover at least 50 years of that. The movie impressively kept things moving without bogging down but the extended time jumps made it choppy and a bit difficult to follow. The book didn’t have to keep to a two hour running time so it provided much more detail and made the time transitions a little more smoothly. It also included enough real history to make it feel more realistic, but I’m not a Lincoln scholar so your mileage may vary on this point.
I enjoyed the action sequences in the movie and it used a slow motion style pretty common these days (pioneered by The Matrix). It certainly kept things interesting and Abe’s gadgets and axe handling skills were impressive albiet entirely unrealistic. I did have a bit of a problem with two points in the movie. In the first Lincoln is getting some training from his mentor Henry and manages to shatter a tree trunk in one blow (seen at the 1:18 mark in the trailer above). To me this implied some super human ability, but it was ignored for the rest of the movie. I also felt a horse chase scene was pretty unrealistic and ludicrous, and that’s saying a lot considering the expectations I had based on the movie name.
It was a close race, but I give the book the win this time. The action was a lot of fun and I enjoyed the filming style of the movie, but the choppy plot got to me in a way the book didn’t. I saw the movie before I read the book, so I may have been influenced by imagining the action set pieces as I read the equivalent passages in the book but I still give the book the nod.
If you’re contemplating one or the other, you may want to catch the movie first and see how you feel about the basic ludicrous nature of the plot. If you’re okay with that, then I would pick up the book to fill in the blanks. There’s surprisingly little repetition between the two and I had no trouble watching the movie and reading the book sequentially, which is not usually the case.