I am Legend by Richard Matheson

With the movie about to come out, my boss loaned me I am Legend by Richard Matheson. I read the synopsis on the back cover and concluded that the book might be good for a pulpy vampire-slaying romp:

Robert Neville is the last living man on Earth… but he is not alone. Every man, woman, and child on Earth has become a vampire, and they are all hungry for Neville’s blood.

But what I got was an intense, thoughtful, and well-written novel chronicling one man’s struggle against horror as he descends through the stages of loneliness. You understand the main character’s emotions and Matheson is able to convey them forcefully. As much as you are drawn in to the protagonist’s isolation, so too are you fascinated by the sci-fi/horror plot that gradually unfolds over a rich 160 pages.

I don’t mean to make the story sound like some high-minded allegory; after all, it is about a man struggling to survive in a world of vampires. The entertainment value is certainly there, but I just wasn’t expecting the book to contain the depth that it did. As I churned through the last few pages, wrapping my mind around the surprise ending, I realized what a special treat I’d given.

Having seen previews for the movie, I don’t have a lot of hope that it will capture the motifs of the book. Still, I may give Will Smith a chance.

Another thing to mention is that my copy of I am Legend contained a collection of very eclectic sci-fi/classic horror short stories by the same author. These ranged from poetic, to silly, to hot (From Shadowed Places), to dark. I had seen many of the themes/ideas before, but then I looked at the copyrights and saw that Matheson had written most of them in the early 1950s. Apparently the World Horror Convention gave him a title of Grand Master, and he’s written episodes for the original Star Trek and The Twilight Zone. Impressive, most impressive.

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