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I Am Legend (S.F. MASTERWORKS) Paperback – 21 Jan 1999

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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz; New Ed edition (21 Jan. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857988094
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857988093
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 1.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (300 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 163,046 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


"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

74 of 81 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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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By C. Oflaherty on 22 Oct. 2006
Format: Paperback
I bought this because it was number two in the masterworks series, which has been a goldmine of excellent science fiction: Gateway, Forever War etc.

I was a little dubious about reading a vampire book. I went through a bit of a phase as a teenager, and it had all been a bit cheesy and romanticised, more about the costumes than horror. I also read Dracula many years ago and was decidedly underwhelmed. This, was however, unexpectedly excellent.

Reading this novel is a little like being locked inside the main characters small shuttered house, with occasional forays into the sunlit world outside. This is because at first the only knowledge of the world you have is through his fear, and his hatred of the vampires; but gradually this is added to by his recollections of the past, of his realisations about the world he is now living in. This mirroring between the reader's knowledge and the main character's world is an excellent method of creating empathy with a character with whom you are not always meant to agree, but are at least expected to comprehend his choices.

The vampires of this world are not a mythical, and mysterious creation, but a scientific fact and undeniable truth in John Neville's world. This makes them both more frightening and more sympathetic, because regardless of their present situation and their needs they were once people. The question the book ultimately poses is what is it that makes us human?
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Captain Pugwash on 19 May 2009
Format: Paperback
I hadn't heard of Richard Matheson's post-apocalyptic novella until the film adaptation came out. After seeing that somewhat messy movie, I was inspired to seek out the source novel. Now, I think it's always better to watch a film version of a novel first, as it's usually less frustrating; the book is dark, eerie and ultimately harrowing, and I was gripped by Matheson's prose and couldn't put it down until I'd finished it. I would definitely recommend this novella to Sci-Fi/Fantasy fans and to those who simply like to read quality fiction. This edition is a reasonable price on here too.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Steven Moses on 27 Sept. 2006
Format: Paperback
The Millenennium SF series is a bit of mixed bag of so called 'classic' and seminal sci-fi of the 20th century. 'I Am Legend' rightly deserves it's place in that list but not necessarily as a sci-fi novel. But it's a bit of a curate's egg. In fact it's not even a horror novel per se. There's a blend of sci-fi, post-apocalyptical musings ( more so in the movie based loosely on the book), some horror of course. But this novella is more a psychological examination of what it's like to be the last man alive. Matheson is an expert at leading us into the mind of a man without the companionship of his fellows. I won't spoil the plot as there are some brilliant and unexpected twists but the chapters concerned with Neville's discovery of a dog, company he has craved for for three years, is stunning and I defy anyone not to be moved to tears. I love the film, which is why I bought the book initially, but after reading it I'm afraid Heston et al missed out on a better adaptation. Near perfect.
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Lendrick VINE VOICE on 30 July 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is hard to think or a darker book - Richard Neville is the last man alive the rest of the population turned into vampires by a mysterious bug. By day he scavanges the deserted city and seeks out sleeping vampires to kill, while at night he sits in his fortified house listening to the vampires howl for his blood.
But this isn't just a excuse for horror, it a novel about the nature of man which will make you think as well as scaring you.
Written in 1954 this is a timeless classic - I wonder if Matheson now regrets the then so futuristic 1970s setting - it is the only thing that dates the book. An influence on so many others, Steven King and George Romero for a start. This should be on any list of great novels of the 20th century.
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