Monday, 30 December 2013

I Am Legend - Richard Matheson


didn't really know what to expect from I Am Legend, as I've already seen the film (2007) and had heard that the novel was very different. As it turns out, the book is VERY different and for starters, I was surprised to find that Richard Matheson's monsters were vampires rather than those angry zombie things!

Despite this, the basic premise of the book was what I expected: set in a post-apocalyptic world, Robert Neville is the last living man on Earth. Life is hard for Neville and he has to use all of his wits to survive the vampires that hunt him. Innovation is essential and he constantly works to safeguard his home while grappling with the demons of loneliness and celibacy.

Day to day, he dedicates himself to two things: killing as many vampires as he can find and searching for a cure. Despite knowing very little about medicine and biology, Neville is hopeful and manages to unveil a great many facets about vampire kind . . .

The Good
Matheson does a remarkable job in developing Neville's character and I could really believe that he is a man struggling to come to terms with the lonely existence that has been forced on him. Throughout the book, Matheson really describes Neville's thought processes, fears and ambitions and his character goes through several, believable transitions that were extremely interesting to read about.

Matheson’s ideas about vampires are also extremely well thought out and he has used real science in his explanation of them as a species and how they came to be. He has linked these ideas well with different human cultures to give them a real depth. In addition to this, Matheson hasn't gone overboard with blood and violence like many modern horror movies and books do, instead using his language to tell the story.

The story is also paced well. It's not a long book, with its length being perfect to tell Neville's heart-breaking story without growing stale – because let’s face it, there’s only so much an author can do with one character surviving in a world of vampires before it grows old!

The Bad
The main gripe I had with I Am Legend is that it really wasn't as scary as I thought it was going to be. Despite being a book about vampires trying to murder and suck Neville dry, there were very few scenes of horror in it. Although I think the Hollywood ‘blood and gore’ routine is getting a bit unnecessary now (as most modern horror films are simply slashers with various monsters in them), I did expect a certain level of it to have been included in the book . . . 

My Thoughts
I Am Legend is certainly a remarkable book, in which Matheson has really excelled himself. The book is well thought out, well executed and suddenly throws events at you from nowhere. I would certainly recommended reading it as it’s much better than the film!

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