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I Am Legend (S.F. MASTERWORKS) Paperback – 29 Mar 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz (29 Mar. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575094168
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575094161
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 1.3 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (338 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,089 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

It seems strange to find a 1954 vampire novel in Millennium's "SF Masterworks" classic reprints series. I Am Legend, though, was a trailblazing and later much imitated story that reinvented the vampire myth as SF. Without losing the horror, it presents vampirism as a disease whose secrets can be unlocked by scientific tools. The hero Robert Neville, perhaps the last uninfected man on Earth, finds himself in a paranoid nightmare. By night, the bloodthirsty undead of small-town America besiege his barricaded house: their repeated cry "Come out, Neville!" is a famous SF catchphrase. By day, when they hide in shadow and become comatose, Neville gets out his wooden stakes for an orgy of slaughter. He also discovers pseudoscientific explanations, some rather strained, for vampires' fear of light, vulnerability to stakes though not bullets, loathing of garlic, and so on. What gives the story its uneasy power is the gradual perspective shift which shows that by fighting monsters Neville is himself becoming monstrous--not a vampire but something to terrify vampires and haunt their dreams as a dreadful legend from the bad old days. I Am Legend was altered out of recognition when filmed as The Omega Man (1971), starring Charlton Heston. Avoid the movie; read the book. --David Langford --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Sci-fi fans will be spoilt for choice as Gollancz brings out 'the ten greatest sci-fi novels of all time' beautifully packaged in stylish covers with new introductions by contemporary writers. Every one is a winner." (Lisa Tuttle THE TIMES) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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4.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

77 of 84 people found the following review helpful By David Caton on 5 Oct. 2002
Format: Paperback
I know it sounds like a bunch of cliches but this book gripped me so much I couldn't put it down and read it in just a few hours. A sometimes bleak study of the human condition it is also engrossing, thought-provoking and moving. It is also one of the few "horror" novels out of hundreds I have read that have genuinely scared me.
Basically it is the story of Robert Neville, the lone survivor of a plague that sends its victims into a coma, followed eventually by death and vampirism. By day Neville hunts sleeping plague victims and vampires and disposes of them in the traditional manner. By night he locks himself away while hordes of vampires attack his well-defended house. Eventually he seeks scientific explanations for the causes of vampirism and tries to find a cure. In that respect I think the story must have been an influence on the Blade comics and movies (just don't expect hi-tech weapons, martial arts and cool shades!!).
As Neville becomes more resigned to his situation, and gradually gets used to the nightly attacks of vampires on his well-defended house, so does the reader. The vampires become almost incidental and the writing focusses more on Neville's thoughts and preoccupations. Until, that is, Neville loses track of time and gets caught outside, miles from home at nightfall. It is a testament to Matheson's writing that at this point the thought of being in Neville's position and having to run the gauntlet of vampires waiting for him outside his only safe haven is truly terrifying!
The pseudo-scientific explanations for the characteristics of vampirism seem a little silly, especially the "body glue", but these are really incidental to the story, as is the futuristic 1970's setting, and you shouldn't let these put you off.
I would recommend this book to anyone.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By FallenGrace TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 20 July 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
My first experience with I am Legend came from the luke warm Will Smith movie, despite being an avid reader I wasn't aware that it was even originally a novel until a friend pointed it out to me and thankfully it is much more enjoyable. The book revolves around a man named Robert Neville, he's no hero, soldier or scientist, just a regular guy, he's only special because he seems to be the last human being alive after a disease has turned everyone else into some kind of vampire. Robert survives by taking advantage of the day/night cycle a vampire lives by while boarding up and barricading his house using garlic to keep them out.

I have seen this book labled as Horror/Sci-fi but I would throw a good dose of psychology in there too. Robert's loneliness and Isolation having no companion or even anyone to talk to drive him to the brink at times. The despair, paranoia, anger and monotony of life cause him to sometimes give up, other times they seem to be what keep him going. This book isn't so much about vampires but being locked in Robert's house with him. Robert isn't necessarily a likeable protagonist, some of his thoughts get especially dark but he is a survivor and the book covers a few years as he struggles to keep his hummanity and his mind by attempting to research what the cause of the vampyrism is without really knowing what he is doing.

It works very well as Robert is the sole focus of the book it allows Matheson to really delve into his psyche as well as use flashbacks at times to build on how the world came to be quite how it is. The first half sets up how Robert survives, Matheson manages to make mundane things surprisingly interesting while the second half sees Robert having really accepted his fate, living almost emotionlessly in routine.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Simon O'Connor on 9 Oct. 2013
Format: Paperback
For me, the most engaging aspect of Matheson's 1954 I AM LEGEND is it's merging of ancient vampire folklore with a modern setting. Matheson here, was perhaps one of the first writers to pluck these creatures from their traditional castles or Transylvanian mountains and drop them into present day towns and cities.

We still have garlic and stakes through the heart and we still have bloodthirsty ghouls - back from the grave - who dare only come out at night.......but here in modern times they are given a scientific evaluation as Earth's sole survivor of a plague attempts to study and examine the vampirism as a disease in the hope of developing an remedy for the condition.

Our hero is Robert Neville, a scientist whose team co-develop a serum to combat a mysterious and deadly plague that quickly engulfs society. Neville has self-tested the serum but before it has been mass-produced, both the serum and it's formula are lost in an air crash and the plague quickly spreads the land, with those infected appearing to experience a return from the dead and a craving for blood. The creatures are vulnerable to daylight and shuffle around in hordes, occasionally feeding on each other if fresh blood cannot be found. A large group of these ghouls know where Neville lives and on a nightly basis descend upon his barricaded home in an attempt to sieze him for their bloodlust.

By day, Neville roams the empty streets and neighbourhoods armed with stakes and garlic in an attempt to seek out the hiding places of these creatures and destroy them while they are docile. Matheson places us in the thoughts of his protagonist almost throughout his entire story and we become very acquainted with Neville through his hopes, fears, frustration and anger.
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