I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson has been requested by quite a few of the boys in my class of 7th graders, so I decided to check it out. I have not seen the current movie version but I am a fan of the Charlton Heston film, The Omega Man if only for it’s 70’s camp value.

It turns out I Am Legend is a darn good science fiction thriller. Set in a desolated future, 1978 was the future when the book was first published, ravaged by a disease that turns people into vampires. Or rather, it turns them into the creatures that formed the basis for the vampire legends. This allows for several suprising plot twists.

There is one survivor, of course, Robert Neville, who has made his Los Angelos home into a fortress. By day, he makes repairs on his home, scouts out food and supplies, and searches for vampires to kill and other survivors to join up with. By night, he listens to classical music in the hopes of drowning out the cries of the vampires.

The plot keeps up a brisk pace through the use of flashbacks to explain how the world ended up like this and through the introduction of new characters, namely a dog and a young woman, who bring the novel much of it’s tension–are they infected with the vampire germ or are they immune like Robert Neville is. The finish is satisfying, though downbeat, probably too downbeat to be the finish of a Will Smith movie just like it was too downbeat to be the finish of a Charlton Heston movie.

While I’m not going to get the book for my seventh graders, it does have a few scenes that go too far for classroom use, I am giving I Am Legend by Richard Matheson four out of five stars. If you’re looking for a fun, quick read during your winter break, this may be the book for you.

This review first ran on Ready When You Are, C.B., my previous blog.  I’m slowing migrating all of my old reviews to this new blog.  For some reason I couldn’t get the import blog feature to work, but I didn’t want to lose several 100 reviews.  I put a lot of work into those things over the years.  

I still haven’t seen the Will Smith version of this story, so I’ve no idea how faithful it was to the book.  I did re-watch the Charlton Heston version a few years ago. There are some fascinating extras on the DVD now, including and interview with a professor of anthropology, maybe sociology, who talks with Charlton about the movie.  I love it that they take the movie so seriously, comparing the society in it to our world, generally treating it all with much more respect than most people probably think the movie deserves.

But I say it’s darn good movie.  There’s an earlier, Vincent Price, version that’s Italian made, too.  It’s also very good.  

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About james b chester

Blogging about books since before you were born. See my blog at JamesReadsBooks.com
This entry was posted in American Fiction, Book Review, Classic, Fiction, Science Fiction and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

  1. John-Paul says:

    Hello. I am here again feeling like a heel. I’m not good at commenting on blogs, and I was concerned to read your doubts about your blog and the sudden decline in readers. If it is any comfort at all I have very few readers indeed. Far, far fewer than you. I think we probably do this business for other reasons. I make myself not look at my stats because it is usually depressing. I have weaned myself off my stats now, and try just to enjoy writing and getting the odd comment.

    On another note, I have never seen this movie or read this book but I was majorly hacked off by Will Smith’s movie about the Pursuit of Happyness. After all that struggle and poverty the epilogue blurb explained how the character went on to become a massive capitalist. Pah! That’s all the character learnt? Unlearn your greed, fool!

    Ganbatte as they say in Japan (do your best/keep at it). JP

    • The sudden drop in readership at my old blog turned out to be a blessing of sorts. I was close to fully retiring from blogging. I’ve been at it since 2007. But when Ready When You Are, C.B. suddenly fell off in the search engines, I went back at it trying to find out why and eventually setting up shop here when I couldn’t figure out what happened.

      Since starting this new site, I’ve been having fun at it again. My readership here is very, very tiny, about ten views a day. But it’s growing, and somehow it’s fun again.

      As for Will Smith, he said some fairly homophobic stuff back in the day that has stayed with me ever since. I’ve not been to any of his movies as a result. He’s entitled to his opinion, but his not entitled to my ticket dollars.

      • John-Paul says:

        Fair enough. He gets enough ticket dollars as it is. For far less moral reasons I went off him when I found out his song “Men In Black” was a not very acknowledged rip off of someone else’s song – kind of like how it was just another reason to hate Blurred Lines when you heard the Marvin Gaye original.

        On another note – who did the great painting that’s in the header of your blog?

  2. The painting is by our neighbor and friend Russ Zellers. He included our dog Dakota after seeing a picture of her I posted to Facebook. The actual painting is much, much larger. Dakota is a small detail in the bottom left corner.

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