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I Am Legend (S.F. MASTERWORKS) Paperback – 21 Jan 1999
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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.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Fantastic book, would of preferred the Will Smith film to be closer to the book....Published 20 days ago by Amazon Customer
Fantastic! Deep, gripping and tense. Possibly one of the best post-apoc novels ever, full of layers that the best read of people will appreciate. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Mr. Smeaton
Wow. What the hell was Hollywood thinking? Never has the phrase “The Book was Better.” ever been more significant than in the case of Richard Matheson’s I am Legend. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Jamie-Lee Turner
This is a short yet excellent book - depicting an apocalypse. It appears that every human being on the planet has been infected by a contagion and died ... all but one. Read morePublished 2 months ago by S P Mead
Arrived promptly and in good nick. Would recommend seller. Just have to finish off the current book before I dive in. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Pensions1
I enjoyed this book, after watching the Will Smith movie, however, I did not really enjoy the third act. A once only read I think.Published 2 months ago by Craig P
This book was recommended to me by a friend when I was looking for something new to read. My usual genre is along the fantasy lines so not to far out with that. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Carol K