Home > Genre, scifi > Book Review: I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

Book Review: I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

Vampire horde.Summary:
A worldwide virus pandemic has turned most of the world’s population into vampires–both alive and undead.  Robert Neville might, quite possibly, be the only uninfected left.  Every day he goes out on his quest to simply kill the vampires while they sleep.  Every night he curls up in sound-proofed home drinking whiskey and listening to records.  Will anything ever save him from this monotonous existence?

It’s difficult to read a highly influential scifi book that inspired both the trend of writing of a worldwide pandemic and the original Night of the Living Dead and find that you actually are a bit unimpressed by it.  I was simply expecting more from such an influential book.

Claustrophobic.  That is the best word to describe the book, and it is also what Matheson excels at.  Depicting the effects of painful ostracism and loneliness on a person’s psyche.  For Robert isn’t alone per se.  He is surrounded by those infected with the virus.  Yet he can’t hang out with them or converse logically with them.  They are entirely at odds, and whereas the infected have each other, Neville has no one.  What this book depicts is what happens when the world moves on, and someone is left behind.  This is truly well done and what makes the book periodically powerful.

Yet it struggles with things, particularly the most simple story-telling and pacing.  The order of events is disjointed and difficult to make sense of.  Neville is a rather unsympathetic character because we only get rare glimpses into his past life before the apocalypse.  His relationship with Ben Cortman, an infected neighbor, is built up to be important and influential, yet it is dropped at the last minute.  One plot point in particular toward the end of the book truly makes very little sense.  The actions of the infected seem to be ludicrous at best.  At the base of it, we see Neville’s insanity much more clearly than we see his previous sanity, which makes his gradual changes due to loneliness less powerful.  Thus, both the characterization and the plot suffer from a certain ever-present disjointedness.

This reads as a great idea that was a bit poorly executed.  Perhaps this is why it has inspired so much other creativity.  The germ of the idea is excellent and easy to ponder upon in spite of a far less sophisticated story-telling.  I thus mostly recommend this to fans of the worldwide pandemic or Night of the Living Dead franchise to see where it all started.  Those who are intrigued by the look at ostracism may enjoy it as well, but others probably should steer clear.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Borrowed

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