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on 11 January 2016
It's a short book (story) this one, but a great read, from the 1950s. It tells the tale of (seemingly) the last "human" alive on earth, Richard Neville, surrounded by zombie hordes. The book is as much a psychological study of the effects of extreme loneliness, loss and grief, as it is fighting off the undead. There are no gory descriptions of decapitation or mass battles, but the tension is real.
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.
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on 29 September 2017
I had watched the Francis Lawrence movie when it first came out, and although I didn’t dislike it as much as some people, I didn’t really find it mind blowing. It was a solid meh - maybe a 2.8754623 stars out of five. I found the book to be better, but not the 5 star read that many others find it to be.

The story is set in a post apocalyptic world where an illness has turned the vast majority of all life into vampires, or… living deads and deads... or something… I got a little lost OK?! And not those crappy romantic vampires, but truly monstrous bite your face off vampires. Robert Neville, a World War 3 veteran, is surviving in this world by mainly hiding in his barricaded home at night and by hunting and putting stakes through the heart of those he finds during the day. Robert van Helsing is, conveniently, immune to the vampiric germ and the illness it causes. He’s still gotta be careful though, because it doesn’t mean these vampires won’t bite his face off given half a chance!

It is difficult for me in my super modern age mind to gauge the impact it had on the genre and just how horror-esque it would have been when first released. I didn’t find it particularly horrifying at any point, but there were moments of discomfort. The whole ‘Oh my there is a female vampire outside acting in a promiscuous manner and I am a man and therefore cannot control myself and my junk is burning and twitching because I must go and fornicate with her despite knowing this is a trap that will lead to my death’ thing was just laughable. What sort of person would have their head in the gutter when there is a vampire apocalypse happening right outside! I'd be more focused on not having my face bitten off, but maybe that’s just me?!

That aside, I still struggled a little to connect with the main character, but I find that a lot with SF from this era. Maybe it’s just not how they were written, or maybe it’s because I’m such a modern day guy. The story and concept was good though. I found the science explanation very intriguing, I was hooked in those parts. Because I’m so busy being totally awesome at other things, I have no idea whether the science actually makes sense or not, but with a small amount of suspending disbelief it makes perfect sense in the context of the story. The ending is much, much, much, much... (we could be here a while, so I’ll skip ahead) much more satisfying than that of the movie.

Overall, this is a solid mid 1900s science fiction book and if those are your sort of thing, you will likely really enjoy this. I’m glad I finally got around to reading it, but I probably won’t read it again.

Anyway, I’m off to soundproof the house and whittle stakes for no apparent reason. (I’m not having my face bitten off.) Peace and Love!
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Robert Neville is the only human left in his neighbourhood and possibly in the world. It's some months since a devastating plague swept through humanity, killing many and turning the rest into vampires. For some reason, Neville alone seemed to be immune. Now he spends each night barricaded into his house, surrounded by all the traditional anti-vampire weapons – garlic, crosses, mirrors – while a growing horde of vampires gathers outside howling for his blood. By day, the vampires go into a coma-like sleep and Neville uses this time to fight back the only way he can – by killing as many of them as he can find.

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...
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on 7 June 2016
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.
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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on 18 December 2017
Like Marcel Duchamp's urinal and the following century of conceptual art, like 'The Message' and 'White Lines' and every socially conscious hip-hop anthem ever since, this novel both creates a genre and - appropriately enough - kills it (almost) dead by dooming everything that comes afterwards to feel like variations on a theme. In the world of the zombie apocalypse, I Am Legend does it first and does it best, without pretension or padding.
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on 20 June 2016
Arrived promptly and in good nick. Would recommend seller. Just have to finish off the current book before I dive in.
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.
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on 21 June 2014
Having seen the film, I was filled with certain expectations of how the story would play out.

It was only one or two chapters in that I began to realise that Hollywood, as usual, had completely skewed the story and missed the actual point of the original story.

As the plot builds, you become familiar with Roberts plight, sympathise with his loss and enjoy his character as the protagonist. The hero. The saviour. I found myself day dreaming about how I would react and how I would have likely taken the same road of despair and angst and how in all likeliness, how I would have become equally as bitter and equally as stubborn to end my own life in the face of the almost certain annihilation of the human species.

Enter Ruth. A well written character, whose arrival should lift the veil of darkness in a world of destruction and violence, bringing companionship and a sense of hope for Robert. He is understandably reluctant to lower his walls and allow this light into his life, suspecting Ruth of being "one of them", however after a period, he begins to regain his own humanity and slowly allows himself to look to the future once more.

The twist is sudden and unexpected and the perception from which you view the entire story shifts almost instantaneously. You're suddenly seeing that Robert himself is now the stuff of legends, a relic of a time forgotten and that the human race is now obsolete. In fact, he is now perceptively the bad guy, all though you discover this whilst also maintaining the desire for him to survive and deliver us from the clutches of the originally perceived evil.

This story highlights the imbalance of our society and the importance of understanding how perception is in fact reality. If we want to change our world, our lives, then we need to begin by changing our perception of it and, importantly, change our perception of how we fit into the world, both as individuals on our own journey and as a society of conscious beings. Then we can rebuild. Then we, right now, can begin to save our own world from human self-destruction.

I found this book to have a thought provoking rhetoric, whilst delivering both the action and emotion as to cater to the genre's core fan base.

Well worth a read in my humble opinion!
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on 11 February 2011
I am not really a sci-fi reader but I saw this book on a "must read" list in a Sunday supplement. I have seen the movie with Will Smith and enjoyed it but the book is a hundred times better and I wonder why Hollywood found it necessary to deviate from the plot so much.
The book is set during the 1970s and tells the story of Robert Neville who appears to be the only unscathed survivor of a terrible plague. There are plenty of other "people" roaming the streets but they have been transformed into vampires. Neville's days are spend sharpening wooden stakes and stringing together cloves of garlic It is an ongoing battle just to keep his house fortified. During the day the vampires are comatose and Neville seeks them out to kill them. His nights are spent trying to ignore the noise of the creatures calling for his blood on his front lawn. The truly horrifying thing is that Neville knew, and was even friends with, some of the vampires when they were regular human beings. Neville's existence has carried on like this for three long years and he has almost resigned himself to this life of solitude.
The story is most thought provoking and, towards the end of the book, Neville is made to question the rights and wrongs of his own actions. This is a book that you will read in one or two sittings. Apparantly there have been three movies made of this book, i will check the other vesrsions out.
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on 29 September 2013
I bought this book as it was on the recommended reading list for an english literature class I am currently taking. I am not familiar with any other Richard Matheson books and my only knowledge of the story was based on the Will Smith film version, which I thought was awful by the way. I was worried that having seen the film of this story, it would ruin the book for me. However, by the second chapter I had completely forgotten about the film and was hooked on this much darker tale. Robert Neville is a much darker and the sense of isolation he suffers is much more intennse in this story. The flashbacks are haunting and you feel a true sense of loss for Robert which wasn't there in the film. His frustrations and and torment is all the more real. The twist at the end is astounding and really makes you think, and makes the title of the book have so much more meaning than what the film portrays. It is also a great re-invention of the classic vampire stories, I loved the science within it. Is a book that will really make you think and will have you frantically reading to find out what happens next.
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on 22 October 2007
This is a fantastic book. It took me ages to get around to buying it, but I finally decided to treat myself, and once it arrived, I devoured it within two days. It's a gripping, edge-of-your-seat thriller, with stark, matter-of-fact prose, punctured by moments of poetry and pathos, which perfectly captures the feeling and atmosphere needed to build the tension.
It is a remarkably prescient book too - like all good SF - and isn't so much a fantasy, but a comment on the world as it is today. Mention of germ warfare, super-bugs, and strange climate changes, make it seem like it was written last year. In fact, the only anachronism occurs when the main protagonist refers to a black colleague as 'a negro'. It is then - and only then - that it is brought home to the reader that this was written in 1954..!
Fans of '28 Days Later' will love this book, but to me, it could almost be a prequel to the greatest vampire novel ever, namely 'Salem's Lot'.
Let's hope the film adaptation of 'I Am Legend' is faithful to the feel of the source material, and doesn't become a ridiculous Will Smith star vehicle, which was unfortunately the fate that befell 'I Robot'.
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