Kelly's Reviews > I Am Legend and Other Stories

I Am Legend and Other Stories by Richard Matheson
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's review
Nov 28, 2007

liked it
bookshelves: the-end-is-nigh
Read in November, 2007

Eh. While I can appreciate the reasons this book is considered influential, in the end I wanted to like it much more than I did. I liked the whole last man standing angle and the scientific approach to the traditional vampire tale was pretty innovative but ultimately I was let down.

The erratic pacing of the story and the disjointed narrative grabbed my attention much more than Robert Neville's struggle to survive. For example, on page 55 of my edition, right after Neville realizes his vampiric nemesis, Ben Cortman, looks like "malignant Oliver Hardy" and collapses in a fit of laughter the narration, without transition, jumps to Neville driving stakes into unconscious vampires:

"He couldn't stop laughing because it was more than laughter; it was release. Tears flooded down his cheeks. The glass in his hand shook so badly, the liquor spilled all over him and made him laugh harder. Then the glass fell thumping on the rug as his body jerked with spasms of uncontrollable amusement and the room was filled with his gasping, nerve-shattered laughter.

Later, he cried.

He drove it into the stomach, into the shoulder. Into the neck with a single mallet blow. Into the legs and the arms, and always the same result: the blood pulsing out, slick and crimson, over the white flesh." (Matheson, Richard. I Am Legend . 2nd Edition. New York: TOR, 2007).

Did I miss something? Is there a misprint in my edition, or is there really no connection whatsoever between these two scenes? I know it's a small piece of the story to fixate on but I couldn't/can't get over it. I must have read this chapter close to ten times trying to figure out what the hell I was missing. Any guesses?

Besides the narrative glitches, I also wasn't feeling the ending. For while I love me some fiery apocalypse (in whatever form it may choose to manifest), it would appear that Matheson and Eliot share a common vision of the end. . .

"This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper."
~(T.S. Eliot, "The Hollow Men")
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~♥ruth♥~ * ~♥marsh♥~ The jumping-between-scenes bit that you're getting stuck on. It's a narrative technique. The author could have meant many things by it, but my interpretation of it was to make the reader feel slightly disoriented, a little confused with the story line - to involve you in the story, by helping you to understand the muddled up mindset of our Robert Neville.

Muriel Spark uses the same sort of technique in "The Girls of Slender Means," but with a different outcome from its use, and various other books show the same.

Ru X

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