I Am Legend
Reason for reading: I first discovered this book when I found that it was being made into a film, for the third time. I thought, “Vampires are pretty cool, and I’m always up for a nice apocalyptic story…” Well, that’s probably paraphrasing it a bit. The book is also fairly well thought of so it was added to the list. After buying Dracula recently I determined it was time to read I Am Legend.
Quote: “And suddenly he thought, I’m the abnormal one now. Normalcy was a majority concept, the standard of many and not the standard of just one man.”
Robert Neville is the last abnormal (see quote above!) person on earth. A plague has swept the world turning everyone into a vampire. Each day Neville gathers supplies and hunts down comatose vampires. But as the sun goes down the neighborhood vampires gather around Neville’s house attempting to break in or coerce him to come out so that they can feed on his blood. Each night Neville fights through despair and the clamoring noise of the vampires to stay sane.
Although this novel’s most common classification is Horror it is not scary. But I don’t believe it is meant to be. This is a study of Robert Neville, how he copes with the hopelessness of his situation, of being the last of his kind. He has lost everything dear to him, now he struggles to retain his humanity. But how can he when there is no one to talk to, nothing to do but read and listen to music and think about the past, and when he spends each day destroying, kill or be killed.
This novel is also unique in that it attempts to give a scientific reason for vampires. Not a mythical legend, vampires exist for a reason, they can be empirically proven. It feels oddly modern for a book written in the 1950s.
Richard Matheson’s prose is not fancy, it is adequate. But the reader feels the despair, the rage building, then being released by Neville. It makes one think, is there truly a reason to go on living in a world like this? And what would you do, how would you cope, or could you?
I Am Legend is only 160 pages long, the copy I own is filled out with 10 short stories. They feel like short stories, and most of these don’t stand out. Mad House, a story of a house that turns on a hate-filled man, was the only one that really grabbed my attention.
Rating for Short Stories: 2.75
Update: The trailer for the new movie starring Will Smith as Robert Neville is now on the web. I have linked to the large format of the trailer, you need Quicktime to view it.