THE LAST AMERICAN VAMPIRE by SETH GRAHAME-SMITH is an alternate history of America, from the colonies to the present, told by a person who experienced it all: Henry Sturges, the last American vampire.
Henry Sturges has been a major player in many key moments of American history. He came to America as a newly-married twenty-five-year-old Englishman, human and ready to start a new life. He and his wife were members of the Roanoke Colony, who built a fortified settlement in what is now North Carolina. Roanoke is infamously referred to as the Lost Colony – because its more than one hundred inhabitants disappeared without a trace.
The Roanoke Colony, including Henry’s wife, was completely wiped out by a vampire who had come to the New World in order to control it. He is impressed by Henry’s spirit and decides to save him by turning him into a vampire.
The life of Henry Sturges follows the flow of American history very closely. He watches from a distance, trying not to attract attention, living independently from it until his friendship with Abraham Lincoln convinces him to take part.
THE LAST AMERICAN VAMPIRE is the sequel to Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which details Henry’s involvement in Lincoln’s life – from the time when he was a young man to his assassination. The first book focuses on the events surrounding Civil War, with both sides backed by vampires.
Henry is one of the Union vampires, but the Union does end with the war. Vampires like Henry continue to fight to protect mankind at large. They still call themselves the Union far into the 20th century, though their numbers have dwindled considerably.
The novel jumps around through Henry’s history. The conceit of the book is that Grahame-Smith (whose fictional counterpart narrates the book) is pulling from diaries that Henry has kept through the years; he is picking out the most interesting parts and building a narrative of the power struggle behind the scenes of American politics – the strings of which are being pulled by vampires.
Henry spends time in both America and Europe meeting many notable figures throughout his life. Authors like Bram Stoker and Edgar Allan Poe make appearances, along with John D. Rockefeller and Nikola Tesla. Henry and his allies fight against the villains of history, including Jack the Ripper and Rasputin – who are both vampires themselves.
As a result of his involvement as an advisor to Abraham Lincoln, Henry is coerced into working for multiple presidents and repeatedly conscripted into armies. The American government knows exactly what Henry is, and they rarely hesitate to use him. America wouldn’t be the same without Henry Sturges.
The book is filled with photographs, which add to its sense of historical weight. It contains letters, telegraph transpositions, newspaper clippings, and email. Excerpts directly from Henry’s diary are also used liberally, to get a sense of what Henry was feeling at the time.
The pseudo-realism of the book is very engaging, and although the book looks like nonfiction – right down to its footnotes – it reads like a novel.
The line between real and imaginary is thinnest at this time of year, and I think there are few better ways to embrace that than by reading supernatural fiction. This book is action-packed and fun, while also being somewhat gruesome (as most vampire fiction tends to be). So, if you’re looking for something to quench your thirst for the supernatural, give THE LAST AMERICAN VAMPIRE a try.