In 2009 I read of a genre mash-up book titled Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith but having never read Jane Austinís book (and having a more than slight aversion to zombies), I decided it wasnít a book I wanted to read. The following year Mr. Grahame-Smith published a second book, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. A lofty and obviously apt title. More on that later. Again, I decided against reading it but I donít remember why; I was probably reading something else at the time.
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Earlier this year, I read a review in the Los Angeles Times about a new book titled Unholy night by the same author. This one intrigued me because Iím a sucker for books based on bible stories. But as is my unfortunate habit I forgot about it till a few weeks ago when I found myself at the local Target store. It wasnít a book I expected to find there, Target being the mecca for all things young adult, but figured it wouldnít hurt to look and, lo and behold, I found it with a 30% off sticker affixed to the bookís jacket. I purchased it and promptly put aside the book I was reading (Barrabas by Par Lagerkvist).
Unholy night is pure revisionist history. I have my doubts about whatís in the bible but if one takes it as the word of God (as itís all too-human-publishers would have you believe), then this book takes those doubts for a spin and inoffensively helps you back to the position you were in before reading it. Residual dizziness be damned.
The story is told from several perspectives but centers on Balthazar, one of three biblical wise men Ė who, it turns out, might not have been so wise after all. Balthazar is a bit of a scoundrel with a far-reaching reputation that makes him the scourge of kings and anyone else who thinks like one. Heís cunning but eventually finds himself a prisoner in Herodís dark cell where he meets two other men, Gaspar and Melchyor, who are far less crafty. Their fates not in their hands, they find themselves free men on a date with destiny.
They, of course, find their way to a certain manger on a very peculiar night and with a very bright star watching everything from a distance. Pre-ordained events come to pass and the chase is on. Again.
I enjoyed this book. Before reading it I expected something along the lines of Christopher Mooreís book, Lamb Ė a comical telling of Christís missing years. I was more than pleasantly surprised to find Balthazar is a very human, very sympathetic character. How else can one become the scourge of puppet kings without tragic events in their back-story? He is a thief first and protector of the seemingly weak second. But all that matters is that he is a protector and, as written by Mr. Grahame-Smith, he becomes a hero in a world populated by greater men. Or lesser men depending on your point of view.
Having read the book and enjoyed the storytelling abilities of Seth Grahame-Smith, I thought I would go see the movie [b]Dark Shadows Ė with a screenplay written by the same author whoís book I just wrote of. In hindsight, it wasnít a good decision. The movie is purposeless and amounted to nothing more than gag jokes. Yes, Johnny Depp becomes Barnabas Collins but an interesting character is nothing without an interesting story. Good thing I didnít pay to see the film. I snuck into it after the movie I had paid for, Avengers, ended. But thatís just between you and me. And my thirteen and ten-year-old nephews and their seven-year-old sister. They made me do it. Peer pressure sucks.
Seeing Dark Shadows didnít deter me from wanting to read Mr. Grahame-Smithís previous novel, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. I found the paperback at Borders and was disgusted by the retail price so I left without buying it. Once home I looked it up on-line and found the hardcover for less so I ordered it, hoping it would arrive before the movie based on it hit theaters. The book arrived the day after the filmís release so I decided to wait till after reading it before heading to my local megaplex.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is another revisionist history book. But one based on irrefutable facts. Mr. Grahame-Smith obviously researched his subject and it shows in the horror fantasyís believability. The book is written as a straight-forward biography Ė with photographic ďevidenceĒ to back up the story.
We first meet the Great Emancipator as an exceptional child guiltily providing for his family. Soon after, events transpire at the hands of a vampire and our exceptional child swears to eradicate the world of every last one of them. Along the way he makess an unlikely ally who trains and sets him on his date with destiny. I canít say with any certainty that God had anything to do with this Abrahamís story.
Iíve read blogs and reviews decrying Mr. Grahame-Smithís liberties with historical events but the book is a fantasy and that is something the reader needs to keep in mind lest he or she confuse facts with fiction. Itís a clever story and I am now looking forward to seeing the movie on the big screen. Hopefully this weekend with my other thirteen year-old nephew.
I donít know if I will ever read Seth Grahame-Smithís first novel because I canít guarantee Iíll read Jane Austenís, but I am certainly tempted to. For now, Barrabas is calling.
I will never write like you and I hope you never write like me.
"...the only war that matters is the war against the imagination--all other wars are subsumed in it..." -Diane di Prima