Saturday, May 28, 2011

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

 "Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal... Except for vampires..."
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is not only a cool title, but also a cool concept.  I have not read Grahame-Smith's 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies', which also sounds cool, but after reading this book, I will def pick it up. I know this book may seem ridiculous to most, I will admit when I 1st saw it, I was like; "Yeah I'm not reading that".  I'm glad I changed my mind.  It absolutely blew my expectations away.  It was well written and fun to read.  Grahame-Smith does a fantastic job of intertwining historical facts with fantastical fiction.  He could have taken the story and made it silly, but he didn't.  He wrote it so straight-faced that I found myself at times thinking the non-fiction parts were true!  The historical part was just fantastic.  I never realized how little I knew of our 16th president and the dramatic life he lived.  As Grahame-Smith said himself on the Acknowledgement page; "And finally, to Abe--for living a life that hardly needed vampires to make it incredible...".  Grahame-Smith wasn't joking.  Abe experienced the death of his mother at an early age; he realizes his father wasn't the great man he had once believed; Abe lost 3 sons to early deaths, his betrothed (Ann Rutledge) died before they married; his wife (Mary Todd) fell to mental instability due to the loss of their 3 sons; he started a business and it failed.  He ran for congress and lost, he battled deep depression (from his journal he wrote of suicide more than once), and so much more.  Despite all these tragedies, setbacks, trials, Lincoln forged ahead with a strength of character and tenacity not seen in these times.  He lead a country through a war that would pit countrymen vs countrymen, brother vs brother all to do the right thing, to free people from tyranny and enslavement.  He went against the majority and never wavered, never compromised his values.  Now throw in the fiction to sweeten the pot.  Abe loses his mother to a cruel creature, vampire.  Vampires have fled Europe, for they were being hunted by Europeans for centuries, to come to America and take over the "New World".  They loved America for its cruelty toward man, black slaves.  The Union is really a group of good vampires out to rid America of the bad vampires.  Grahame-Smith goes on to "document" how if the North lost the civil war, not only would blacks remain in servitude, but ALL men/women/children would be enslaved by their new masters, vampires.  I love the connections of other iconic Americans.  Abe meets Edgar Allen Poe in Louisiana, Jefferson Davis is an evil human, helping the vampire race to enslave his own race, Henry Sturges is one of the good vampires and becomes Abe's closest and most trusted friend despite Abe's overwhelming hate for vampires and of course John Wilkes Booth, famous actor, ladies man, assassin, vampire.  I found myself hoping for something to intervene with Booth's cowardly deed, that somehow the assassination doesn't take place, but of course as we all know our history and it does indeed happen.  The only thing I will say didn't ring true, was the end.  I knew what the end was going to be, or rather I suspected what the end would be.  Throughout the book every time Abe lost a loved one, Henry Sturges offered to bring them back by turning them vampire, to which Lincoln always declined, so from that foreshadowing one could infer that Abe is coming back as a vampire.  What doesn't ring true is that throughout this entire book the reader is privy to Abe's extreme hate for the vampire race, so would he really come back as one?  I'm nitpicking of course, but I would be remiss not to mention it.  Overall an excellent read and I encourage everyone to read it.  It won't disappoint you, unless you are a vampire sympathizer, then you may not like it. :)   I rate it **** out of 4.  Stay Booked! Happy Reading!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Anthem by Ayn Rand

"Know what you want in life and go after it. I worship individuals for their highest possibilities as individuals, and I loathe humanity, for its failure to live up to these possibilities..."
This was my 1st Ayn Rand book, which happens to be the 2nd she wrote.  I loved it!  It is definitely a thinking person's book.  Rand has a subdued but powerful voice, one of poignancy and directness.  One can feel the passion in her prose.  She affects the reader by engrossing us in story but more so in her character development.  Her intention in this book (and really in all her books) is one of individualism.  The fight against propaganda and collectivism.  Rand was born in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1905 and witnessed atrocities none of us could fathom.  But it is about individualism and Objectivism that she is impassioned about most. "Ayn Rand named her philosophy 'Objectivism'.  Objectivism is an integrated system of thought that defines the abstract principles by which a man must think and act if he is to live the life proper to man".
Anthem emboldens that philosophy.  Rand's original title was Ego; "I used the word in its exact, literal meaning.  I did not mean a symbol of the self--but specifically and actually Man's Self".  From the Introduction of Anthem: One correspondent at the time warned Miss Rand that there are people for whom the word "ego" is 'too strong--even immoral'.  She replied: "Why, of course there are.  Against whom do you suppose the book was wirtten?"
My synopsis: Anthem is set in a unknown future and in it there is no "I" or "me" only "We".  Characters have no names, but numbers and refer to themselves in plural form "We were not meant for any other work", instead of "I was not meant for any other work".  Our hero, Equality 7-2521, struggles with his identity as a collective whole after discovering a long forgotten passage to a forbidden tunnel.  This leads to a series of events that ultimately lead him to become an outcast, a traitor, a dissident.  Along the way he falls in love (which is also forbidden-all love, all relationships are non-existent except love for the 'whole') with Liberty 5-3000 who also questions the collectivism.  After Equality 7-2521 is condemned for breaking the rules, he flees into the forbidden forest and shortly after Liberty 5-3000 follows and finds him.  They go off to discover their new world and happen upon an abandoned house which has many books and they discover the old ways of the world, the individual.  They discover people had names and so they rename themselves, he Prometheus and she Gaea, respectively.  Gaea becomes pregnant and Prometheus begins plans to strengthen their new world and to rescue friends they left behind.  But this isn't a rescue story save the rescue of ones self.  This is a short but powerful novel and I highly recommend it.  My review does not do it justice at all, for that I apologize, but believe me when I say it is a well written, supremely character driven & thought provoking work of literary art.