- Paperback: 176 pages
- Publisher: Gateway; Reprint edition (29 Mar. 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0575094168
- ISBN-13: 978-0575094161
- Product Dimensions: 20 x 1.4 x 13.4 cm
- Average Customer Review: 430 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,820 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
I Am Legend (S.F. MASTERWORKS) Paperback – 29 Mar 2010
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The SF classic that inspired the blockbuster vampire movie starring Will Smith.
About the Author
Richard Matheson (1926 - )
Richard Matheson was born in 1926. He began publishing SF with his short story 'Born of Man and Woman' which appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1950. I Am Legend was published in 1954 and has been adapted to film three times. Matheson wrote the script for the film The Incredible Shrinking Man, an adaptation of his second SF novel The Shrinking Man (published in 1956). The film won a Hugo award in 1958. He wrote many screenplays (including The Fall of the House of Usher) as well as episodes of The Twilight Zone. He continued to write short stories and novels, some of which formed the basis for film scripts, including Duel, directed by Steven Spielberg in 1971. Further SF short stories were collected in The Shores of Space (1957) and Shock! (1961). His other novels include Hell House (1971) (filmed as The Legend of Hell House in 1973), Bid Time Return (1975), Earthbound (1982) and Journal of the Gun Years (1992). A film of his novel What Dreams May Come (1978) was released in 1998, starring Robin Williams. A collection of his stories from the 1950s and 1960s was released in 1989 as Richard Matheson: Collected Stories.
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I really liked the fact that the zombies could "talk", (taunting him at times), and that, living in his old (fortified) house, he recognised his former neighbours as they shuffled about in the dark, or tried to kill him. That made it feel very personal and the isolation real.
Neville, over time, has learned to be self sufficient, resourceful and resilient. The arrival of a stray dog triggers a series of (emotional) events which lead to........well, I won't spoil the book.
Great little read.
Put away your anti-vampire fiction prejudices for a moment. The book is sci-fi in the sense that it's set in a near-future and involves a plague, Neville's world is about as dystopian as you can get and there are passages of great horror writing. But Matheson combines all these genres to produce something that is fundamentally about humanity – about loneliness, prejudice and the overwhelming will to survive.
The story is told from Neville’s perspective, though in the third person, and begins by showing his day-to-day existence – checking his house is still secure, making good any damage the vampires have done the night before, collecting any supplies he might need from the abandoned grocery stores. Then if there’s enough daylight left, he takes his stock of wooden stakes and hunts for vampires. The horrors of the plague are never far from his mind, though, and it’s through his memories that the reader learns what happened at that time. And Neville hasn’t given up all hope yet, either that there might be other people who escaped with their humanity intact, or that by studying the medical books in the abandoned libraries he might be able to fathom out the cause of the plague and develop a cure.
The quality of the writing is very high, not always a given in sci-fi. Where a modern day writer would doubtless waffle on for a stultifying 500 pages and throw in a love triangle, (yes, I am bitter…), Matheson cuts to the chase and packs a huge amount into a relatively small space. The search for a cure is done interestingly, with Neville taking the usual vampire story tropes one by one and testing them out to see which ones are true, then speculating on possible scientific causes for why they should work. Why garlic? Why do they only go outside when its dark? Why wooden stakes?
But when evening comes and the shouting and howling begins, then we see the utter loneliness and despair that haunt his nights, with memories of his happy, normal life before the plague constantly reminding him of all he has lost. It’s at these times that he questions what it is that makes him go on day after day, why he is driven to continue with the futile task of killing vampires when he knows that he’ll never be able to make even a tiny dent in their overwhelming numbers. Would it not be easier to give up, go outside and join them? But he is disgusted by them, a visceral, instinctive disgust at their very nature, a disgust that comes as much from hatred of difference as from fear.
The descriptive writing is spare but very effective in building an atmosphere of fear and tension, with occasional gleams of hope serving only to deepen the pervading darkness of despair. Neville isn't a super-hero – he's just a normal guy, meaning that the reader empathises with him. But what pushes this book beyond good and towards great is unfortunately the thing that cannot be discussed in a review without major spoilers. Suffice it to say that, when you have finished reading, you will probably find that you feel very differently than you expected to, and might well be left pondering the very nature of what it means to be human. Intrigued? Then read it...
Charlton Heston's 'The Omega Man' was the original film after this book (if you haven't seen it, do watch though it looks a bit 70's hammy now what with limited special affects though still stands as a classic IMO)
The more recent Will Smith movie always makes me cry. Wonder whether the dog (Samantha) features in the book.....? Unlikely I think, but will soon see.
The storyline is engaging, drawing you in from the start, the writing is fantastic. The author really shows the characters feelings and allows the reader to feel them to. The descriptions of the settings are in depth enough to allow the reader to see them without becoming too detailed and boring. It is an easy book to get lost in. I read it within a few hours as got completely into the story and couldn't put it down.
Would recommend for anyone who is looking for something in between fantasy and horror genre.
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