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.