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Thursday, March 17, 2011

I am Legend by Richard Mattheson

Read as Audiobook
Perhaps I should have read the book blurb before I grabbed the audio book off the library shelf. Or perhaps I should come out from under my rock once in a while and pay attention to what movies are actually out and what they are about. I also don’t typically read horror so I had no idea this was considered a ‘horror’ book. So thus, I confess, I had no idea that I Am Legend was a ‘critically acclaimed' vampire book.

From One of the most influential vampire novels of the 20th century, I Am Legend regularly appears on the "10 Best" lists of numerous critical studies of the horror genre. As Richard Matheson's third novel, it was first marketed as science fiction (for although written in 1954, the story takes place in a future 1976). A terrible plague has decimated the world, and those who were unfortunate enough to survive have been transformed into blood-thirsty creatures of the night. Except, that is, for Robert Neville...

For having been written in the 1950’s in a 1975 era, this book has aged remarkably well. We are introduced to Robert Neville after the plague has seemingly killed or converted to vampires the rest of the populous. Robert is struggling to come to terms with the new world in which he is forced to live. The reader is swept along through his rages of anger, despair, sorrow,  almost too much so at times. More than once I was like “Yes, yes, yes, I know Neville is a deep boiling mass of frustrated rage, let’s get on with the story already!” Though that may have been a factor of the audio book.

Items I particularly enjoyed – the hypothesis on what causes a vampire, and how the vampire plague spread so very quickly. Perhaps Mattheson took a page from history and drew inspiration from the influenza outbreak of 1918. The explanation on what kills a vampire, why garlic is an effective repellant, and why a vampire cannot abide by the light of day. I thought Mattheson’s reasoning was pretty creative. I also appreciated the occasional reference to a “romanticized Dracula”.

This isn’t to say that the book isn’t without its flaws, and I did find them numerous, but if one can overlook those and read this as a potentially classic piece of literature (in the horror genre if one must), I recommend this selection.

Ed. To add, I also have not seen the movie, and it is my understanding that the artistic liberties were quite numerous in the movie.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's funny --- that's one of the very few movies I HAVE watched. It was strange, but it kept me entertained for an evening. Will Smith isn't hard to look at. LOL

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