I Am Legend

This is a book that I’ve seen several times before, most notably I’ve heard about this from the recent movie that came out starring Will Smith.  I haven’t seen the movie, but I know that they made some major changes to the overall story when translating the book to the film, which happens all the time.

Another interesting thing about the version of the book that I purchased is that it also has several short stories by Matheson as well as the main story that’s included.  The main part of my review will be for I Am Legend, but I’m also going to discuss some of the short stories in the book as well.

Book Stats

312 Pages

Horror

Characters

The main character of I Am Legend is Robert Neville, seemingly the only man to survive a strange disease that turns everyone into vampires.  He obviously lives a very solitary life with a lot of introspection.  But Neville is a very active character, even though you’d think that he wouldn’t have a lot to do.  Along with constantly building up the defense of his house, he also spends his days venturing out and killing all of the vampires he can find during the day, when they’re in a coma like state.

Setting

A small town in America in the 1970’s, I don’t believe that it ever actually mentions the name of the town, but it really doesn’t matter overall.

Plot

The plot is fairly simplistic; Neville is still alive and trying to find a reason to keep living.  He spends a lot of his time trying to find out more about what created the vampires, and from there trying to find a way to cure those who have become vampires.

Enjoyment

One of the hardest things to do in storytelling is to tell a story where the protagonist doesn’t have a lot to do.  When it’s done well it leads to a brilliant story, there are few examples I can think of where it’s done well, and there really aren’t all that many examples I can think of where it’s done at all since it’s such a difficult thing to do.  Neville is an interesting character, and it’s wonderful to watch him go through his journey.  The ending of the book was also really well done, and it’s always interesting to see a good twist ending that doesn’t simply feel tacked on at the end of the story.

Short Stories

I really enjoyed the short stories by Matheson included in my copy of the book (there were a total of 10 of them).  In many ways they reminded me of the writing of Hubert Selby Jr. (one of my favorite writers who I’ve talked about a couple of times on the blog, although I don’t have any of his reviews on here) in the way they dealt with the darker side of humanity and our cultures.  The main difference between these stories and Selby’s is that these included supernatural elements that were brought in to increase the tension.  While I don’t typically read a lot of short stories, these were all a lot of fun to go through.

Overall Grade

A very well written horror story that does an excellent job of dealing with a solitary character, well worth a read.

7/10

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8 Comments

  1. I really liked this book. It is difficult dealing with a solitary character in a story but I think it is well handled here. I think the ending is particularly well done and, given that I’d seen the most recent film, was something I wasn’t expecting. I actually thought the book ending was better than the film although overall the film was okay.
    Lynn 😀

    Reply
    • I’d heard the film was ok, but I knew that they hacked up the ending of the book for the movie, which I’m sure would irritate me if I saw it now.

      Reply
      • I saw the film before reading the book and so wasn’t in the position to compare it. Having read the book however I don’t understand why the ending was changed – I loved the ending of the book and it gives the title it’s real meaning. The end of the film is just wishy-washy and meaningless and brings nothing to the title at all. Such a shame – almost as though the producers don’t think we’ll be able to cope with certain endings and they’re protecting our sensitivities. It’s amazing how so many of us manage to read books and for those books to become classics without the author having to go back and change the ending to something a bit more palatable! Then having become a classic or cult novel the moviemakers feel the need to change it!
        I suppose it’s inevitable.
        Lynn 😀

      • The Cracked.com article talking about it said something along the lines of test audiences not enjoying or understanding the ending (it’s been a while since I’ve read the article). I understand why the transition from book to movie involves a lot of changes, they’re completely different mediums and they do different things well. But when you’re changing the story to remove the part that gives the story it’s name, what’s the point in even calling it I Am Legend anymore?

  2. I read this book (same version as you with the other stories) right before the movie came out, because the previews with Will Smith were killing me and I could not wait until the movie came out to check out the ending! I greatly enjoyed the book, but do NOT see the movie! The changes that were made, in my opinion, were to make it more of a Hollywood ending, and I was highly disappointed in the movie ending.

    If you enjoyed the book, don’t ruin it with the movie!

    -Rebecca @ Love at First Book

    Reply
    • I’d heard about the changes they made for the movie (as well as the actual ending to the book) from an article on Cracked.com a while ago, it seems like exactly the kind of cheap cop-out that Hollywood likes to rather than give people a quality ending to a story.

      In some ways I think that the book ending would have worked better in movie form than it did in the book. One of my biggest problems with the book (although I didn’t put this in my review) was that the way it was written didn’t leave me caring for the character as much as I could have. If the movie was done well enough that problem could be averted, but I don’t know if they would have been able to pull it off.

      Reply
      • I completely agree! I thought the main character in the book was unlikable, while Will Smith is super likable in the movie. However, the Hollywood happy ending they changed for the movie really sucked the life (haha, what a funny joke) out of the movie. The book ending and a more relatable main character would have made a better book AND movie!

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