I Am Legend by author Richard Matheson
I think I’m a rarity for the I am Legend audience. I’ve actually never seen either of the movies and knew very little about this book going into it. In full honestly, I thought it was just some last man standing post apocalypse story. I was surprised to find out it’s a vampire book! So I went into this one nice and fresh and was very pleased with the outcome.
Since I knew so little about this one going in it was shocking to discover how many things I now recognize have ripped it off. I had no idea! But now I’m sure to be seeing I am Legend in so many books and movies from now on. I honestly don’t know how this one flew over my head for so long, it’s weird the gaps that we have in our cultural knowledge sometimes.
The premise of the horror novel is simple and familiar. A man is alone after everyone else he knows of has turned into a vampire. He spends his days surviving and his nights trying to drown out the cries of the undead. But there are some key differences which separate the man of this book, Robert Neville, from heroes of other similar stories.
First of all, Neville isn’t actually handling his situation very well. In apocalypse story after apocalypse story we see people summoning all of their strength to become a survival warrior with a master plan. Neville does what he needs to do to keep himself alive but then succumbs to getting absolutely black out drunk to forget the day before starting the next one. Honestly, this is far more realistic.
He’s depressed, lonely, scared, annoyed, likely has survivor’s guilt, and gets angry at himself for not being better or doing more. He talks to himself a lot and has an inner turmoil surrounding his personal ethics in his new world. It’s actually one of the only cases I can think of with a vampire book blatantly addressing the issue of wanting to get laid in an apocalypse but having to talk yourself out of taking advantage of a dead girl. It goes there and I greatly appreciate it.
This kind of honesty seems to be getting rarer and rarer in today’s book market. Everyone wants a best seller and nobody wants to piss anyone off. It’s flaccid creativity and isn’t worth my time. Cross some lines, the books will be better.
Second of all, he struggles with the concepts of myth versus reality. He is fully aware of vampire lore and can see what does seem to be true and what doesn’t. But he wants to know why. He uses the scientific method to figure out why garlic keeps the vampires away and how crosses and mirrors and stakes come into play.
I am Legend is a very short book but it gets deeper into morality, mythology, science, mental health, coping mechanisms, and survival instinct than entire multi book vampire series. It does a lot with only a few pages. In fact, if one part had caught me on a worse day I could’ve cried like a baby. It summons deep emotions, instinctual emotions.
The third reason I am Legend stands out against its “peers” is the ending. It is unexpected, complex, and absolutely perfect. Without spoiling too much it has to do with the evolution of society and how myths become reality or vice versa. How someone can become a legend.
I strongly recommend reading I am Legend regardless of whether or not you’ve seen the movies or think you know all about it already. It’s a vastly underrated classic. It’s so much better than that stupid Dracula. What an absolute bore that one is! And this one is about an eighth of the length!
So go, read I am Legend, you wont be disappointed.
5/5 garlic bulbs 🧄🧄🧄🧄🧄
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What’s the difference between the I am Legend book and the movie?
With a little help from the internet here’s a short list of differences between Richard Matheson’s novella and the film adaptation starring Will Smith.
Setting: LA, California
Time Period: 1970s
Protagonist: Robert Neville, average middle aged dude
Monster: traditional vampires with supernatural abilities akin to standard lore
Character development: Neville struggles with daily survival, psychological issues, loneliness, alcoholism, and suicidal thoughs
Ending: Neville is executed and will become the new lore for young Vampires to hear stories about
Setting: New York City
Time Period: 2012
Protagonist: Robert Neville, esteemed military scientist and super fit Will Smith
Monster: basic infected fast moving zombie
Character development: action star survives heroically
Ending: hope oriented ending with the possibility of a cure, essentially erases the meaning of the title and the core themes.
I am Legend FAQ (Spoilers, of course)
I am Legend (2007) is based on the novella of the same title, I am Legend. Other film adaptations include The Omega Man (1971) and The Last Man on Earth (1964).
Yes. Unfortunately the dog dies die in the original book. A heartbreaking plot point that makes Neville even more lonely than he was prior to befriending the dog. He tried to make the cure but couldn’t achieve it fast enough to save his friend.
The book’s ending is a tragic commentary on scientific advancement and what it means to be “human.” Neville is executed by the vampires for his crimes against them. They are the dominant species now and he has been trying to eradicate them. As he is dying he comes to the conclusion that he will be the villain they tell their children about, he is Legend.