Apatt's Reviews > I Am Legend

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
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it was amazing
bookshelves: horror, pre-80s-sf

“As he entered the silent store, the smell of rotted food filled his nostrils. Quickly he pushed a metal wagon up and down the silent, dust-thick aisles, the heavy smell of decay setting his teeth on edge, making him breathe through his mouth.”

This book was adapted into a 1964 film called “The Last Man on Earth” (the first of several adaptations). I have not seen the film yet but the title is very apt, if a little on the nose, perhaps. The above quote is an example of the feeling of loneliness that pervades throughout the narrative. Robert Neville, the protagonist, is indeed “The Last Man on Earth” (as far as he knows), the rest of the planet having turned into vampires. Halt! I Am Legend is not a “supernatural romance”, yet it is not a gore-fest vampire carnage novel either. I would describe it as a “sci-fi vampire novel”. The vampires are created by (view spoiler). All the classic vampire lores are either rationalized or debunked by Neville’s research.

This rather short novel (about 175 pages) basically depicts Neville’s solitary day-to-day life, from five months after the vampire apocalypse, to three years (skipping a year or two in the timeline). For most of the book, there is no dialogue to speak of, we just follow Neville around, dispatching vampires in the daytime, doing research, locking himself in and getting blotto after sundown, feeling miserable all the time. Is there a point to such an existence? Neville asks himself that from time to time and there is no obvious answer, he is simply not to suicidal type.

I Am Legend is a classic of several genres, sci-fi, horror, vampires, and post-apocalypse. I love the scientific rationalization of the classic vampire lore, the need for blood, the aversion to garlic and the cross, the stake through the heart etc. The overtly supernatural lore like transformation into bats and the lack of reflection are dismissed as superstition. Equally interesting is the contemplation of Neville’s existence and the moral issue. In a world full of vampires with only one human being who is the monster really? The narrative is well paced, without a dull moment, but it is by no means an action-packed thriller. Neville is something of an antihero, some of his actions and behavior are quite questionable and even downright reprehensible but the circumstances do make him quite a tragic and sympathetic figure. There are some dramatic plot developments which I certainly will not elaborate on, and an ending which leaves you thinking about the morality of the tale. I Am Legend is, of course, highly recommended.
blood line
Notes:
Talking about the various film adaptations:
movies adapt
Four are listed at Wikipedia:
• The Last Man on Earth (1964)
• The Omega Man (1971)
• I Am Legend (2007)
• I Am Omega (2007)

I have not seen the 1964 adaptation, I have found a copy now so I will get back to you on that! It does star Vincent Price, and the Price is always right! I have seen the Omega Man decades ago, it stars Charlton Heston, pretty entertaining as I recall. The 2007 Will Smith vehicle which actually uses the novel’s title is a total disappointment. In both the Omega Man and the Will Smith movies the vampires are replaced entirely. The 1971 movie replaced them with light-sensitive goth weirdo hipsters, while the 2007 movie replaced them with big eared monsters. The Will Smith is particularly disappointing because it uses the novel’s title then goes off in a predictable, cliché direction. Richard Matheson’s nuanced, thought provoking ending is entirely jettisoned. At least the Heston movie is a hoot.

Quotes
“ There were five of them in the basement, hiding in various shadowed places. One of them Neville found inside a display freezer. When he saw the man lying there in this enamel coffin, he had to laugh; it seemed such a funny place to hide. Later, he thought of what a humorless world it was when he could find amusement in such a thing.”

“After lunch, he went from house to house and used up all his stakes. He had forty-seven stakes.”

“Morality, after all, had fallen with society. He was his own ethic.”
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Reading Progress

May 22, 2018 – Started Reading
May 27, 2018 – Finished Reading
May 28, 2018 – Shelved
May 28, 2018 – Shelved as: horror
May 28, 2018 – Shelved as: pre-80s-sf

Comments Showing 1-8 of 8 (8 new)

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Babbs This is a favorite of mine and I'm glad you enjoyed it too!


Apatt Sirius Scientist wrote: "This is a favorite of mine and I'm glad you enjoyed it too!"

Thank you, Sirius Scientist. I definitely have to read more Mathesons😊


message 3: by Cecily (new)

Cecily This is not the last review on earth by Apatt, for this story!
;)


Derek Why do you say "In both the Omega Man and the Will Smith movies the vampires are replaced entirely"?

It's arguable in Smith's, but unless I'm horrendously misremembering the film, they're still very much vampires in Omega Man.


Apatt Derek wrote: "Why do you say "In both the Omega Man and the Will Smith movies the vampires are replaced entirely"?

It's arguable in Smith's, but unless I'm horrendously misremembering the film, they're still ve..."


They are not just light-sensitive goth hipsters selling Swiss luxury watches? My bad!


Derek The light-sensitive goth hipsters are the "new breed", but I remember the ones that Neville spends the whole film killing being very much like Matheson's vampires.


Apatt Derek wrote: "The light-sensitive goth hipsters are the "new breed", but I remember the ones that Neville spends the whole film killing being very much like Matheson's vampires."


Now I remember Heston's iconic line from this movie "Get your hands off me you dirty goths! "


Derek All of Heston's lines are iconic. They were written in hieroglyphs, ever since "The Ten Commandments".


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