Everitt's Reviews > I Am Legend and Other Stories

I Am Legend and Other Stories by Richard Matheson
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's review
Nov 06, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: american-literature, classics, fantasy, movies, nostalgia-lit, science-fiction, horror
Read in April, 2012

About the rating: the book contains a novella called I am Legend which is around 160-170 pages long depending on which version you read. The other half of the book is comprised of short stories of varying quality. So the novella I am Legend gets a 5/5 stars from me, the 4/5 stars is for the book itself.

I've never seen the Will Smith movie, "I am Legend", nor have I seen any of the other three films adapted from the story. So I cannot speak to whether a fan of those films will want to read this. But I can say that it is one of the best examples of horror and sci-fi/fantasy I've ever read.

When Stoker invoked Van Helsing a "metaphysician philosopher" to fight Dracula he brought together science and religion and commingled them with neither having a decisive upper hand at least not until the end of the novel. Matheson, writing in 1954 (58 years after Stoker) gave the world a new spin on vampirism by providing a detailed medical explanation of the source of the infection. In fact, a good 1/3 of the story consists of watching him fumble through the exploration of the material explanation for the vampire plague. (view spoiler)

Like most great science fiction, I am Legend is ultimately about loneliness and isolation. The story is great not for the science or the description of a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles, which in 1954 would have been even scarier than we can imagine. The story is a success for the humanity he injects into the daily existence of one man - Robert Neville.

Specific relationships follow the spoiler tag.(view spoiler)

But that is the nature of what the Victorians called "horror and terror". Fear derived from anticipation brought about a catharsis. And so Matheson is at once a master of that Victorian (Romantic) genre as well as a master of the Atomic Age of Science Fiction. The fusion is amazing.

Recommended for: everyone, but especially fans of vampire stories, horror and science fiction. Fans of Victorian literature may find they enjoy the book as well.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Franky (new)

Franky Everitt, nice review. I saw the film a few years ago and always wanted to read this book. Sounds like it was different, but you sold me with the review.

Everitt The novella is one of the greatest pieces of sci-fi/horror I've ever seen. And if you are into the genre, calling I Am Legend a part of either genre feels odd as it is so much better than what is typically labeled "genre fiction" which is not a slight on sci-fi or horror at all but a compliment to Matheson, this is one of the books you have to pick up. Might make a great book for All Hallow's Read as well.

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