Review: I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

So I had heard of this book a long time ago and just never picked it up and to be honest when the movie version starring Will Smith came out it put me off picking it up straight away because of all the hype surrounding the book because of the movie.  Things like that tend to put me off reading a book straight away unless I’ve had a personal recommendation from friends, family or other bloggers.  Which in this case I did.  Jenny from Wondrous Reads said to me before that it is one of her all time top 5 books ever and with a high recommendation like that how could I say no!

I also fancied reading a vampire book that had a different edge to it from what now seems to be the normal vampire current trends (vampires = the bad evilness or vampires = or shiny love interest).  Set in the late 1970s but written in 1954 the book has been critiqued heavily since it’s publication and I don’t think I’m able to make ‘well rounded’ comment on that point in this review because a) deconstruction of texts and analysis is not what I try and make my reviews about (I did that for many years at university and college so I’ve done more than my fair share!) and b) I don’t feel knowledgeable enough on the subject area to tackle it.

So this review is just a review of the book as a horror genre novel and a vampire story but there are many places on the Internet that I’m sure you could read up on the historical context of the book and looking at it as a comparative text etc.

Right; on to the fun stuff: VAMPIRES RAWR!

So the book is set in a sort of post epic virus attack that we gradually learn about from Robert Neville, the main character and our eyes in this new world, as he learns about why and how this virus struck, why he has survived against it all and if there is a cure.  This involves learning the basics of what a virus even is and then learning how this one functions before how to cure it, if it can be cured at all.

What I did really like about this story is even though it was in essence a vampire story we rarely hear about vampires in the traditional sense.  The dead and living dead as Robert describes them have vampire traits but not all of the legends seem to be true as he finds out from trial and error and he doesn’t even refer to them as Vampires to begin with.  They are more like a looming horror outside his world and he survives day by day until he soon comes to the decision to do something about it rather than just surviving.

Considering that this book is essentially a one man story with few supporting characters it makes the sensation of isolation even more believable.  We only ever really hear Robert’s “voice” unless it’s a memory or general shouting from the living dead and even toward the end of the book when another character enters his world it’s still very much his story.  He fights with himself and against the man he was and is now as well as his inner voice that tells him how foolish his actions are and this only adds to the isolation and claustrofobic nature of the story. 

The book is genuinely scary and touching at the same time and I loved the added details here and there like Robert describing his day to day chores and how he feels as he drinks away the world some nights and listens to classical music.  A great story with a twist at the end that leaves you with a sense of closure to his story but also left me feeling hollow at the same time but in a good way.  It’s a hollow feeling because it’s the ending that he needed even if I wanted another solution.  I was left happy and sad at the same time.  It is very much a story about conflict from the battle physically against enemies, mental battles with the mind and the past and the conflict of the old and new.

Rating: 8/10

Published by Orion Books and available here and all good bookshops

2 Comments

  1. I've had this book for a while now and have been wanting to read it but like you said, all the movie hype puts it down a little. But I'm glad you liked it! Maybe I'll be able to read it soon! Great review!

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