A quick and creepy little morality play of how desperation can lead even the holiest to sin and the importance of keeping faith in the face of despairA quick and creepy little morality play of how desperation can lead even the holiest to sin and the importance of keeping faith in the face of despair and suffering. A fairly functional allegory of the plague years with truly scabrous descriptions of hellish arachnids. And of course you know there just had to be a bonus helping of xenophobic misogyny (sin returns to tempt the village in with a sudden influx of vain foreign women) to fully round out this Calvinist parable. Not my morals, not in the least, but it has always fascinated me to see how different historical eras have interpreted the events of their past to explain their present, just as it fascinates me to see how history is interpreted in our present to fit the futures that we are barreling toward. ...more
A few years ago, when all the books of this ilk first began to be released, I swore I would not give in to the fad. At first this was rather easy, becA few years ago, when all the books of this ilk first began to be released, I swore I would not give in to the fad. At first this was rather easy, because I am not the sort of person who is generally inclined to read Pride and Prejudice either with or without zombies. I have far too much sense to give in to Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters, or so I liked to think. At the very least, there were already far too many books to read on my list for me to add on some cheap Victorian retreads. Oh the follies of youth.
Fast forward a few years to yesterday, when I found myself wandering through the Hudson Books at an airport looking for something to read and spotted this little gem of alternate-history. Knowing that the film is due this summer, and being a bit of a pushover when it comes to vamp-fiction, my resolve folded like a reed in a windstorm and it simply had to come home with me. There I sat, wedged between a drunken suburban soccer mom on her first solo holiday in two decades and a business traveler who really should have bought a spare seat for his extra girth, plunged deep into the American frontier of the early 19th Century.
Presented as the lost journals of Abraham Lincoln, this book could easily have been an anachronistic mess. Fortunately, Seth Grahame-Smith appears to have done a fair amount of research on the subject and does an exemplary job of mixing the actual details of Lincoln's life with his corrupt and evil vampires. Having lost his mother to a vampire in his youth, Lincoln swears revenge against the undead, hunting and decapitating them throughout the Mid-West wilderness with the help of an ever-changing cast of sidekicks and the training of a guilt-ridden vampire named Henry. Eventually his passion for freedom and his masterful skills at oration lead him into politics and a head-on conflict with the Southern slave states and their shadowy puppet masters, a cabal of blood-suckers heavily invested in the free blood that slaves provide.
While I often found myself wishing for more descriptions of the actual vampire hunting, rather than the terse debriefs that Lincoln offered in his journal, Grahame-Smith has done a bang-up job in bringing to life a Lincoln not many readers outside the historical community are familiar with. He was haunted by the death of his mother his whole life and when he began to lose his children to vaguely understood illnesses both he and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, were struck by a depression that would seem more fitting in an early 90s rock star living in Seattle battling a heroin problem. He retreated from his family into his work of keeping the Union whole, while Mary Todd began consulting an ever-changing assortment of psychics and charlatans to try to contact the ghosts of their beloved children.
This was an enormously fast read- I started it on the runway in Chicago and by the time my layover in Denver was coming to an end five hours later I was searching my bag for another book to keep me distracted from the endless joys of riding in a metal tin with my fellow humans. I'm still hesitant to buy into the overall idea of these historic monster novels, but as a stand alone lark one could do a lot worse than Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and I know I will likely see the film when it's released a little later this summer....more
Know how to beat a crippling addiction to zombie books? Find the most poorly written series available and read until your eyes bleed. I think that thiKnow how to beat a crippling addiction to zombie books? Find the most poorly written series available and read until your eyes bleed. I think that this book has finally shaken the last vestiges of my zombie love from me. The scenes with actual zombies are mildly entertaining, but the endless (ENDLESS!) pages of characters shacking up with one another, thinking about shacking up with one another, or agonizing about having shacked up with someone had me wanting to pull my eyes out and flush them away so that I could not read another word.
The female duo from the first book are significantly weakened and watered down here as Jeni falls head over heels for her one-time nemesis Juan and Katie remembers that "oh yeah!" before she was married to the wife of her dreams (who had then became the zombie of her nightmares), she had liked men too! What a coincidence that there is a kind and gentle giant ruling with a velvet glove over these survivors. How perfectly convenient. It bugged me. I understand Frater's often repeated points about how society expects people to fall on one side or the other of the gender binary and how it just isn't fair to force people to limit themselves to others' definitions of secuality, but I still hated it. Katie was a strong, self sufficient, lesbian trying to cope with some crippling PTSD after being chased by her zombified wife in the first book, but here she just grated on my nerves. And the rape. Please do not get me started on the rape scene. Ever. If you are at the bottom of the zombie literature barrel and absolutely must have one more, I would still recommend passing over these books. ...more
The creators of trilogies have my sympathy. Theirs is not an easy job and nowhere is this more evident than with the middle arc of a series. The seconThe creators of trilogies have my sympathy. Theirs is not an easy job and nowhere is this more evident than with the middle arc of a series. The second installment of a series is nearly always the most difficult. You have to keep the characters that you introduced in the first book interesting, they need to face new challenges, the mythos of the world needs to become more clearly defined and the story needs to build to a fever pitch so that it can climax in the concluding book. Sometimes it can be masterfully done and add a richness and depth to the series that is normally absent in the first installment, as was managed with Empire Strikes Back, but far more often it ends up falling to pieces under the weight of its creators' ambitions, such as with happened with The Matrix Reloaded.
After the thrilling post-apocalyptic road tale that was The Passage I had exceptionally high hopes that Justin Cronin was going to pull off what has thus far proven well-nigh impossible: crafting a dystopian world with humanity beset by feral beasties that is capable of telling a compelling story even after the initial fall of civilization. Everyone loves a good end-of-days scenario, and they're none too difficult to compose. But what happens after? Where do your survivors go once they've banded together and temporarily bough a reprieve from the destructive forces arrayed against them? When we closed the last pages of The Passage a few years ago we had been left with the tantalizing clue that the supposed safe haven at Roswell had been overrun by the blood-sucking fiends, despite the temporary reprieve that the small band of survivors had been granted when they had destroyed one of the original twelve test subjects responsible for loosing the plague of vampirism on the world. When I first read the book, before learning that it was the first of a trilogy, I thought it was a fitting end. Humanity had won a small victory but numbers are telling and there was no way the survivors could hold back the flood forever.
The Twelve picks up five years after the conclusion of The Passage, after a satisfying if completely unnecessary 150 page flashback to the initial fall that serves to introduce several incredibly interesting characters (Bernard Kittredge may be the most realistic portrayal of an amputee that I've read in some time) that turn out to be so much filler just to flesh out the mythology of this world. And what a mythos it is- an odd and jarring mixture of a weird christian apocalyptic tale of a cleansing plague, Noah's flood with blood in place of water, to basically reboot life on earth as we know it mixed with a rather twisted story of a family torn apart by a miscarriage and how the reverberations of that loss have echoed down through history. Sure, he's fleshed out our understanding of the vampires and added an interesting Renfield twist by granting the chemically-castrated sexual predators who had cared for the Twelve test subjects eternal life and making them the familiars of the Twelve, but it all just seems unnecessary. There are far too many invocations of the Deus ex Machina throughout the story for me to feel that any of the characters have any individual agency but are instead just moving around like pieces on a gameboard so that Cronin can inevitable lead us to the great revelations that will conclude book three, which after the events of book two seem incredibly obvious to me and even more crypto-religious than even the execrable end of the Matrix series.
Was it worth reading? Sure. Will I read the third book? Yeah, I've already placed it on hold at the library. Will anyone remember this series once it's time in the sun is over? Probably not. Most of the tricks that Cronin pulls out in here have been done better in other series- for example, the familiars were far better when they were called Chevaliers in the anime Blood+ and the bureaucracy of the infected in the Iowan prison town was more believable in the Ethan Hawke film Daybreakers- and most of the fun I had while reading it involved thinking of all the parallels to other dystopian or vampire series. I wish that Cronin would have made harder choices for his world instead of following the Campbellian ur-myth so rigidly. I'm curious to read how he'll bring closure to the series but I wouldn't say I'm as invested as I was after finishing The Passage. ...more