Abraham Lincoln + Vampires = Learning

by Ruby on May 21, 2010

Two more literary mash-ups appeared in our office today: this time, it is Android Karenina and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the Undead. Cue despairing sigh. For those of you who don’t know, a mash-up is a great work of literary fiction or a common literary theme with something new thrown in. “Something New” usually means “Something undead and/or paranormal”.  The very first one, published on April Fool’s Day last year, was Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Since then, it seems like a new one comes out at least once a week. Needless to say, for me, some of the charm had started wearing off.

I had the pleasure of hosting Seth Grahame-Smith’s author event last time he stopped by the store, however. His combination of charm and intelligence made the event more than successful (not to mention downright hilarious), so I snagged the galley of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, then lent it to a friend after taking stock of my intimidating “in progress” book pile. It has been over a month, now, so I figured it had simply disappeared into the depths of my friend’s own backlog.

Not so! I heard from him the other day after he finished the 300+ pager in two sittings. According to his report, he literally had to stop himself from reading around 3am, because he had to be up at 8 the next day. The thing that really made me think, though, was his joking comment: “Darn you for making me learn history!”

So wait. Abraham Lincoln, plus vampires, equals learning? I was surprised to realize that he has a point. As much as we might be tired of taking one out of every box of galleys we receive, adding modern humor, combat, and just plain silly fun to really amazing books that have become just a touch anachronistic for your average reader introduces a whole new generation to books they might never have picked up. To be perfectly honest, I’ve never made it through Pride and Prejudice, or any of the many biographies of Abraham Lincoln. Yeah, I’ve read other books by Austen and her contemporaries, but some of them involved months of struggle. Would I consider reading them with zombies and vampires thrown in? Well, I’m kind of a purist, so I’d probably pick up the original, undead-free text first, but apparently lots of people have said “yes”. And if they do read the mash-up, then are inspired to pick up the real thing? Sounds alright to me.

So Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a gripping read, but I also learned at the event how much research Seth Grahame-Smith did when he was putting the book together. Obviously the vampires are late additions, but the book is built on a lot of good, hard facts. I’m not saying skip Team of Rivals, but I see now that mash-ups have their value, too. I won’t sigh any longer.