Author: Seth Grahame-Smith
Length: 398 pages
Genre: alternate history/urban fantasy
Plot Basics: Vampire Henry Sturges becomes a major player in familiar parts of history as he navigates the rapid paces of changes in the 20th century and a new threat that has Henry racing across countries and years to meet. Speckled with a fantastic array of cameos from the century’s notable artists, inventors and world leaders, this alternate history sparkles with believability.
Banter Points: Somehow, I emerged from 11th grade AP American History still loving the subject, maybe loving it more than when I started the class. Grahame-Smith delivers a great romp through the 20th century. He picks the high points, sure, the notable cameos, but delivers with panache and a twist. He paints with a broad brush, sure, but a reader for whom history is a drudgery will still close this book with a better understanding of the events that shaped our modern world. Of course, they may struggle to pick out which pieces are real and where the vampire embellishments stop and start.
If you look on my Goodreads page, you will see that I gave this book (and its predecessor Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter) four stars each. Let’s be clear, I give Graham Greene books four stars. I’ve given award winning books four stars. Grahame-Smith has talent and he has a particular schtick. He does this spoof history really well. Four stars to me means that the writer is consistent with what they deliver. The tone, the flow, etc goes through the whole book. Is the premise of this alternate history goofy? Sure. Does that mean it deserves to be executed poorly? Not at all and Grahame-Smith shows that he can emulate a nonfiction book with the best of them.
Bummer Points: Grahame-Smith gives the book a villain and to me, it detracts from the alternate history. Without being spoiler-y, I never quite not the sense that the villain was going to win or that the stakes of history turning out differently were going to happen. The history of the 20th century has enough of its own evil that the big bad was superfluous and if they were the ones supposed to be pulling all the strings, I never made that connection.
Word Nerd Recommendation: If you liked Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, you really need to keep reading. If you rolled your eyes at that title, let me encourage you to give it whirl and when you love it, keep reading.