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