Born in Allendale, New Jersey to Norwegian immigrant parents, Matheson was raised in Brooklyn and graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School in 1943. He then entered the military and spent World War II as an infantry soldier. In 1949 he earned his bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and moved to California in 1951. He married in 1952 and has four children, three of whom (Chris, Richard Christian, and Ali Matheson) are writers of fiction and screenplays.
His first short story, "Born of Man and Woman," appeared in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1950. The tale of a monstrous child chained in its parents' cellar, it was told in the first person as the creature's diary (in poignantly non-idiomatic English) and immediately made Matheson famous. Between 1950 and 1971, Matheson produced dozens of stories, frequently blending elements of the science fiction, horror and fantasy genres.
Several of his stories, like "Third from the Sun" (1950), "Deadline" (1959) and "Button, Button" (1970) are simple sketches with twist endings; others, like "Trespass" (1953), "Being" (1954) and "Mute" (1962) explore their characters' dilemmas over twenty or thirty pages. Some tales, such as "The Funeral" (1955) and "The Doll that Does Everything" (1954) incorporate zany satirical humour at the expense of genre clichés, and are written in an hysterically overblown prose very different from Matheson's usual pared-down style. Others, like "The Test" (1954) and "Steel" (1956), portray the moral and physical struggles of ordinary people, rather than the then nearly ubiquitous scientists and superheroes, in situations which are at once futuristic and everyday. Still others, such as "Mad House" (1953), "The Curious Child" (1954) and perhaps most famously, "Duel" (1971) are tales of paranoia, in which the everyday environment of the present day becomes inexplicably alien or threatening.
He wrote a number of episodes for the American TV series The Twilight Zone, including "Steel," mentioned above and the famous "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet"; adapted the works of Edgar Allan Poe for Roger Corman and Dennis Wheatley's The Devil Rides Out for Hammer Films; and scripted Steven Spielberg's first feature, the TV movie Duel, from his own short story. He also contributed a number of scripts to the Warner Brothers western series "The Lawman" between 1958 and 1962. In 1973, Matheson earned an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for his teleplay for The Night Stalker, one of two TV movies written by Matheson that preceded the series Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Matheson also wrote the screenplay for Fanatic (US title: Die! Die! My Darling!) starring Talullah Bankhead and Stefanie Powers.
Novels include The Shrinking Man (filmed as The Incredible Shrinking Man, again from Matheson's own screenplay), and a science fiction vampire novel, I Am Legend, which has been filmed three times under the titles The Omega Man and The Last Man on Earth and once under the original title. Other Matheson novels turned into notable films include What Dreams May Come, Stir of Echoes, Bid Time Return (as Somewhere in Time), and Hell House (as The Legend of Hell House) and the aforementioned Duel, the last three adapted and scripted by Matheson himself. Three of his short stories were filmed together as Trilogy of Terror, including "Prey" with its famous Zuni warrior doll.
In 1960, Matheson published The Beardless Warriors, a nonfantastic, autobiographical novel about teenage American soldiers in World War II.
He died at his home on June 23, 2013, at the age of 87
I liked this book a great deal and with all books where I see the movie first I liked the book better. I have liked post apocalyptic stories since I first read The Earth Abides and Dhalgren. I was thirteen years old when my mother dropped me at the theater and I watched Omega Man with Charlton Heston. Loved the concept, loved the movie which stayed with me for days afterward. Fast-forward to current day when I read the book I Am Legend which the movie was based on. The book is well written with details and close point of view that makes the story come alive. The story does not follow the movie story lines in the Charlton Heston movie version or the Will Smith version. The ending is different and unique. I read anything that is well written no matter the genre and would recommend this book to readers who enjoy this topic. David Putnam Author of The Bruno Johnson series.
Like Lucy, this rating is gonna take some splainin. Unfortunately, I don't have a slide show or any multi-colored pie charts to provide visual assistance on this one, so I will try to splain it as clearly as I can, but I will be using quite a few "i.e." and "e.g." to provide supporting clarification for my commentary given I am performing this review without the safety net of visual aids. Please, do not try this at home.
Oh, I've also decided to throw in the occasional word in Spanish...why you ask?....because I just watched some old I Love Lucy re-runs and am getting in touch with my inner Ricky Ricardo.
Okay, from the standpoint of pure smile-spreading enjoyment (e.g., while reading, I look down and notice my toes tapping involuntarily to the smooth, jazzy, melodic flow of the narrative), I would probably rate this 3 to 3.5 stars (i.e., there was no visible toe tapping, but I did have the occasional feeling of warmth move through my tummy....though that could've just been the tacos). Richard Matheson is a terrific writer and this story, like his others, is a quality product and I have zero complaints about the prose or the technical choices he made took in constructing the narrative.
My issue was really with the main character, Robert Neville. He just wasn't very compelling or interesting. He certainly wasn't the most engaging character I have ever come across. This is a bit of a problem since the entire book is spent lollygagging around with Robby as he provides runningjogging sauntering commentary about the world around him. This was a negative for me and detracted from the number of happy units I was able to mine from the reading experience.
So why the 4.0 to 4.5 stars?
I shall splain as there are several reasons that are mucho importante (Oh, yeah...that's right, I just turned this into my first bilingual review). How cosmopolitan.
First (Primero) is the plot. This book, written in 1954, was the genesis for EVERY zombie book that follows and provides the basic framework for most of the post-apocalyptic undead fiction being produced today. Amazingly, it is also one of the best of these stories despite being the first.
Here is the basic plot or argumento: Robert Neville is the sole survivor of a pandemic that struck the world and caused the infected to exhibit all the outward signs of vampirism (vampirismo). He spends his days gathering supplies, fortifying his house and killing the sleeping “vampires” and spends his nights barricaded in his house and fending off attacks from the walking dead. Sound familiar? Well this is the book that started it all and I felt that deserved some serious recognition for both its originality and Matheson's being a trailblazer (pionero) of the zombie sub-genre.
Second (Segundo), is the world-building/back-story and Matheson's explanation of both the plague and the “vampires” which I thought was nothing short of EXCELENTE (i.e., magnifico). While certainly not good science in the sense that it can be analyzed objectively, the explanations given are compelling and superb theater. I actually wish more time had been spent on this aspect of the book because I thought it was just fantástico (i.e....if you need a translation of this, please stop reading and go put the crash helmet back on).
Third (Tercero), is the end of the book which, in my opinion, is worthy of 5 HUGE stars all by itself. I would say that goes double for the very last line of the book (which I think makes it a 10 MEGANORMOUS star ending if my math is correct). Thus, Matheson being the superb writer that he is, not only invents a sub-genre but then, over 50 years after the fact, can still claim to have written one of the best, most original examples of it. That is pretty especial, no?
Thus for all of the above reasons (motivos), I am giving the book a rating of 4.0 to 4.5 stars despite not always “enjoying” the book as much as I would have liked. However, if you haven’t read this, I would highly recommend it as I think it has a lot going for it.
Straight outta Compton, another crazy ass vampire More punks I smoke, yo, my rep gets bigger I'm a bad vampire killa and you know this But the pussy ass ghouls don't show this But I don't give a damn, I'ma make my snaps If not from the garlic, from jackin the crops Just like burglary, the definition is 'jackin' And when illegally armed it's called 'packin' Put a stake through a motherf…
[City of Compton, City of Compton]
[Damn that book was dope!]
I know I’ve used the whole edited-lyrics-as-review before but I couldn’t resist. The story takes place in Compton and I need to build my street cred so – Viola! I’m making secret gang signs at the monitor as I type this so – yo! On with the review.
There are advantages and disadvantage to being the “last man on Earth”:
You are your own moral compass. You can smoke in the house (or anywhere else for that matter) You can drink yourself into a stupor anytime you want You have plenty of time to try and work out a cure You can park in front of fire hydrants
Lonely and isolated (this book does an excellent job of depicting this) Horny (shameless hussy vampires play on this by being provocative) Nightly attacks by vampires some are feral, some are lucid, none sparkly. You suddenly have to become Mr. Science Guy and MacGyver all rolled into one All you have to listen to is classical music
There have been three films made from this story, all with similar scenarios: After apocalyptic nightmare that alters or kills the rest of humanity, hero is lone human survivor.
The Last Man on Earth – This one has Vincent Price giving his typical overwrought, fey performance. It also has the undead moving about as fast as your Grandma using her walker. It adheres to the plotline of the book more closely than the other two.
The Omega Man – Charleton Heston, during his SciFi period. Here instead of vampires, you have evil, albino mutants. Their mutant ability: being annoying.
I Am Legend – Will Smith, big budget, CGI zombies that move faster than Granma. Watching the movie will not spoil the book.
This book also contains some of Matheson’s short stories. Matheson also wrote teleplays, some for The Twilight Zone, so a few of these stories do have that kind of vibe. Most notably: Buried Talents, The Near Departed, Person to Person, The Funeral.
Dance of the Dead and Witch War both take place in the distant future. Mad House, a standout, and Dress of White Silk would be classified as horror. Mad House is set in the fifties, before the whole concept of anger management took hold.
Prey has an odd familiarity to it. It reads like something you would have seen on Rod Serling’s Night Gallery … or a very special episode of Mr. Belvedere.
From Shadowed Places is smexy*.
George Romero, Stephen King and Anne Rice have all cited Matheson as an influence. He wrote a Star Trek episode and his short stories and books have been made into a number of films including Duel, Hell House, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Stir of Echoes and Somewhere in Time. If you have an interest in horror, fantasy or scifi, you should give this a read.
*Yeah, that word again. Using Anne’s made up words will hopefully give me even more street cred.
This is technically a collection of short stories, but I am Legend is the centerpiece, masterpiece, main event, etc. I am Legend truly is a great story, deserving of all the accolades and an inspired source of all the horror genre influence over the past 60 years, including Stephen King. It's about vampires the same way Castaway, the Tom Hanks film, is about the South Pacific. It's about a man dealing with stress, nightmarish circumstances and his will to not just live, but to survive. Matheson tells a tale of isolation, desperation, perseverance and ultimately, absolution.
The other stories are not even close, many just sketches, some are comical. By far the best is "Prey" and I remember watching the short film in the early 70s and being scared as a child. "Mad House" comes closest to evoking the same degree of anger and isolation as I am Legend, very dark and with an almost Kafka-esque absurdist twist at the end.
Most notable about my reading the title story, though, was a growing understanding about the vampire / zombie fascination over the past few years. Matheson summed up that whole sub-genre here: it's all about de-humanization and isolation, a literary Edvard Munch screaming about who we are amidst an outside that we cannot understand nor be a part.
4.0 to 4.5 stars. Okay, this rating is going to a take a little explaining. Unfortunately, I don't have a slide show or any multi-colored pie charts to assist me as a visual aid on this one so I will try to be as clear as I can. Warning: I will probably be required to use quite a few i.e. and e.g. to provide clarification to my statements as well as some targeted use of bold and italics given that I am reviewing here without the safety net of my usual visual aids. I have also decided to throw in the occassional word in Spanish...why you ask?....why not I answer?
Okay, from a pure “enjoyment” standpoint (e.g., Steve, while reading, looks down and notices his toes tapping involuntarily to the smooth, jazzy flow of the narrative), I would probably go 3 to 3.5 stars (i.e., no toe tapping, but I did have the occassional feeling of warmth in my tummy....though that could have just been the tacos). Richard Matheson is a terrific writer and, as with most of his work, this story is very well written(i.e., I have zero complaints about the prose or the technical choices Matheson took in constructing the narrative).
My issue was really with the main character, Robert Neville who was not the most compelling or interesting character that I have ever come across. Since the entire book is spent lollygagging around with Robby as he provides running jogging walking commentary, it subtracted a bit (for me at least) from the enjoyment of the reading experience.
So why the 4.0 to 4.5 stars? Several reasons that are mucho importante (Oh, yeah...that's right, I just turned this into my first bilingual review).
First (Primero) is the plot. This book, written in 1954, was the genesis for EVERY zombie book that follows and provides the basic framework for most of the post-apocalyptic undead fiction being produced today. I would also point out that it is one of the best of these kinds of stories despite being the first.
Here is the basic plot or argumento: Robert Neville is the sole survivor of a pandemic that struck the world and caused the infected to exhibit all the signs of vampirism (vampirismo). He spends his day gathering supplies, fortifying his house and killing the sleeping “vampires” and spends his nights barricaded in his house and fending off attacks from the walking dead. Sound familiar? Well this is the book that started it all and I felt that deserved some serious recognition for both for its originality and Matheson's being a trailblazer (pionero) of the zombie sub-genre.
Second (Segundo), is the back story and explanation of both the plague and the “vampires” which I thought was nothing short of EXCELENTE (i.e., magnifico). While certainly not good science in the sense that it can be analyzed objectively, the explanations given are compelling and very interesting reading. I actually wish more time had been spent on this aspect of the book because I thought it was just fantástico (i.e....if you really need a translation of this that one, you need to put the crash helmet back on).
Third (Tercero), is the end of the book which, in my opinion, is worthy of 5 stars all by itself. I would say that goes double for the very last line of the book (which I think makes it a 10 star ending, but I will have to go back and check my math). Thus, Matheson being the superb writer that he is, not only invents a sub-genre but then, over 50 years after the fact, still can claim to have one of the best written, most original examples of it. That is pretty especial.
Thus for all of the reasons (motivos)above, I am giving the book a rating of 4.0 to 4.5 stars despite not always “enjoying” the book as much as I would have liked. However, if you haven’t read this, I would highly recommend it as I think it has a lot going for it.
Of the vampire books, there are few I choose to read these days. That section of horror was inundated years ago, much like the zombies shuffled their way into an entire genre, and the the post-apocalyptic craze too. The weird thing in saying this, is realizing how I Am Legend is a combination of all three (only a token bit of zombie actually). But it's far better than most of those others, likely because it came before them. While reading, I found its influence apparent upon those I'd read before. Matheson's hero, Robert Neville, is a conflict in anger. Being the last living man, can he be blamed? But he is methodical in his search to find an answer, and persevere if only to find it. “What's the purpose of it?” is something he asks himself almost daily. With good book titles, I often wonder the reasoning behind the words. Why I Am Legend? Does it speak of the vampire? Yes and no. Reading the book you find it in Neville's status. Where once the vampire was a tale to be told, a silly myth, a legend to be believed or not believed, man has taken his place. Robert Neville. The last. Once gone, only a tale to speak of.
P.S. My copy of I Am Legend is actually an “and Other Stories” version, something I didn't realize until after completing the following short story, Buried Talents. I thought I'd only entered another chapter, but couldn't help but wonder what it had to do with Robert Neville. Ah, stupid me - my plight for always avoiding the table of contents. If I had, I would have seen that I Am Legend ends half way through the book. A mere, but terrific, 160 page novella. Mostly, it meant that I wasn't ready to leave Neville's story behind, and in a nutshell that says it all.
Ten short stories comprise the “and Other Stories” here. Prey is one with its maniacal Zuni fetish doll. Anger pervades every facet of a man's waking hours in Mad House. In Person-to-Person the sound of a phone ringing is heard every night at 3am. He answers. It could be a government device implanted inside his head, or complete imagination. When reading, Matheson always makes me wonder. It's his gift.
I highly enjoyed this novel. I saw the movie first, a long time ago, and loved it. It's not the same, both are very good in their own right. The ending in the movie is very Hollywood, while the book left me speechless with so many feels, I was not expecting that. 😬
I enjoyed reading this one. The story was solid and flowed nicely. The character was well-developed and played great into the story. From the beginning we see he was very human: he had emotions of despair, depression, and even quite possibly an alcohol addiction. I mean, what else would you expect from a man who lost everything and wound up being the last man on Earth? His purpose in this new world would be to remain alive for as long as possible.
The concept of the "vampires" (explained in the book), his mission to destroy them, his daily living, healing from the trauma of losing his family, and the pseudoscientific explanations all gave to a topnotch story. The ending was a good wrap-up!
The 1964 Vincent Price film 'The Last Man on Earth' almost follows this book to the letter. The 2007 Will Smith version 'I Am Legend' takes a different approach but was still a good movie in my opinion.
The 11 other stories in this were decent and showcased Richard Matheson as a talented storyteller. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good story. Thanks!
There's not much to say about this story that hasn't been said about other reviews. The premise of this story was great. It was well executed, stayed interesting, and I really liked the ending. I have only two criticisms; the first being about the story, and the second being about the edition that I read. 1. It was too short. This book would have been much better if he had taken the time to flesh out some of the ideas, stretch out the mystery (his search for the cause of vampirism), more character development (the flashbacks about his wife and daughter, and more info about Ben), etc. This could have been so much more than it was. 2. Nowhere on or in this edition did it say that after I Am Legend was a collection of Matheson's other short stories. The inclusion of short stories with this edition is fine; that didn't bother me. It was that I didn't know that half the book was short stories that irked me. I was halfway through the book when all of a sudden the story ended and I was really caught off guard. I kind of flipped through the rest of the book a couple times going, "huh?" before I realized the story was really over. Granted, there is a table of contents, but I assumed they were chapter titles. I didn't take the time to analyze the page numbers and figure out that they were short stories ahead of time. Maybe that's my fault, but it would have been nice if somewhere on the cover it had said "I Am Legend... and other short stories by Richard Matheson." Or something like that. Grr. I did read a couple of the stories and they're fairly entertaining but predictable horror stories. Maybe they were more cutting edge when they were written; they probably inspired a lot of the things I've seen that now make them seem less original.
In short: Great story, but be aware beforehand that it's very short (about 160 pages) and the rest of this edition is other stories!
I know there is a lot going for this book, in terms of popular opinion, influence, and originality, so you'll have to forgive me for interposing my body with the flywheel; we'll see what's left at the end.
In a discussion between Douglas Adams and Lewis Wolpert, the argument was made that the individual is unimportant in science, but is paramount in art. Walpert proposed that scientific discovery is inevitable, as the confluence of ideas will tend to produce parallel developments, such as with Newton and Leibniz, or Darwin and Wallace.
However, I would venture that this is equally applicable to the arts, which respond just as readily to shared influences and social pressures. The process of an artistic movement developing is often geographically precise, and more an indication of similar origins than of proselytism.
The vast cited influence of this book, then, is less remarkable when looking at the movements and ideas surrounding it. The themes of horror always follow scientific discovery, as the Industrial Revolution brought forth Frankenstein, or the Communist scare 'alien threats'. This book draws upon the same sources and brings in the idea of apocalypse--newly popularized by the nuclear age--to create something which is not altogether as insightful as it is inevitable.
Apocalyptic literature was hardly new, whether in a modern vision like Shelley's 'Last Man' or ancient religious eschatology. The nuclear age personalized the apocalypse, so that it was no longer the result of chance or divinity, bringing it to the forefront in a way more pervasive than the religious warnings of a 'nigh end' which go unfulfilled every other year.
Yet Matheson's vision is not this new, personalized apocalypse, but a continuation of plage fiction.
For his proto-zombies, Matheson took influence from the 'Communist scare aliens' and bodysnatchers of the pulps to create a force which is mindless, anti-individualistic, and inhuman, combining it with the vampires of film. One can look at this as an early recognition of the danger (and power) of viral memetics.
These same ideas will contine to be carried on after this work, not only though the oft-mentioned zombie stories, but also through speculative fiction as represented by the Twilight Zone and Outer Limits (which Matheson wrote for). Beyond this, you may see 'I Am Legend' as prototypical of the standard 'gotcha' ending on which these series came to rely more and more heavily.
All these movements and ideas are rife with opportunity for writers looking for a paradigm shift, but I would argue that 'I Am Legend' fails to take advantage of these plentiful ideas. One might point out that it is an early example, but this alone does not save it, as we may point out earlier writings which tackle similar issues with a greater depth and sense of conceptual exploration.
There is Shelley's 'The Last Man', Bierce's 'Can Such Things Be', or the works of Mann, Hesse, and Conrad, who explored similar themes of inhumanity, hopelessness, sex, death, loneliness, and plague; and who did so much more fully and with a sense of joy and artistry.
There are many cases where pulp authors are later found to have overcome the simplicity of their genre, whether by sense of psychology, or character, or vibrancy, or theme. Shakespeare was considered a populist, and in all his fart-jokes, cliches, and story borrowing, we might compare him to 'Family Guy' or 'The Simpsons'; the latter drawing allusions from 1980's culture as he drew his from Greek Myth.
But I digress; Matheson as an author does not bear these strengths, and misses many opportunities to take advantage of the themes he explores, which may be new in their particular combination, but not without literary precedent.
Matheson often lays open his characters' psychological motivations. His every statement of action (or interaction) is followed by an explanation of the thoughts and events which have just occurred. However, his explanations do not expand our understanding of the characters. Instead, the accompanying narration is so simple that one begins to feel that Matheson is simply telling you the same thing twice; or even three times.
If our protagonist asks a question, Matheson inevitably follows with 'he asked, incredulously'. It seems the fact that the character was both clearly incredulous and asking a question did not seem self-evident enough. Then again, nothing in the book is too self-evident to prevent Matheson from painstakingly explaining it several times.
He tells us what his characters are thinking almost constantly, despite the fact that it rarely offers any further insight. One might achieve a similar effect by taking a Hemmingway story and having a high-schooler add in how the character would be expected to feel after every piece of dialogue.
Matheson doesn't have a flair for psychology, and so his characters' reactions are often either unjustified or oversimplified. Instead of writing characters who fit the story, Matheson seems to constantly change the characters or the story to try to achieve his authorial goals. But then, how would one build an entertaining story around such shallow characters?
The protagonist is fond of lecturing the reader on behalf of the author, at which point Matheson seems to recognize his own transparency, deflecting by providing the character with sudden mood shifts before slowly creeping back. Comparisons to Stephen King are apt: another author whose storytelling is jumbled and rough despite the potential of the concepts driving it.
It is not difficult to understand why this book was so influential: in the process of reading it, I was constantly thinking of things I wished the author would do with the story. Every time he overstated a point or underexplored a theme, I began to imagine how I might do it differently. I pictured Romero closing the book having already built an entire movie in his head by simply extending where Matheson faltered.
Indeed, the book often reads like a screenplay, complete with plodding character descriptions to keep the actors from getting lost. At every turn, it breaks the rule of authorship that it is better to show the reader what is happening than to tell him. Matheson's combination of ideas and influences should have been interesting, but his repetitive overexplaning mars the form of the story while his borrowed themes go unexplored for the sake of a gimmick ending.
I will not deny that this work exists in a certain nexus along the development of some very important and interesting genres and works, but it is more rough draft than groundbreaking original.
It is less an inspiring work than the one which revealed that there was a lot of space for other authors to re-introduce old ideas by new means and methods. If only Matheson had been able to take up this challenge himself, instead of making the void conspicuous by inhabiting it, we might remember this book not from where it happened to be, but from what it managed to do there.
Such is the low profile of some great writers that it's only now I discovered that this early sf favourite of mine died five months ago. I discovered sf in my teens (as you know, the answer to the question "when was the golden age of science fiction?" is "14") and I Am Legend was the first novel I read all in one without a break because I couldn't do anything except read it, I was as hypnotised as a rabbit in the headlights of a big van being driven straight at my head. Man, what a trip. Those were the great days of reading when every page was like an explosion. This short novel, if I remember right, is frighteningly bleak, there's not the slightest chance of any kind of happy ending. It was the first apocalyse story I read. Now they're as common as traffic cones. How many times have you seen the Statue of Liberty's arm poking up out of a heap of rubble/the engulfing waters/a pile of corpses. Very surprisingly, the latest movie version of I am Legend was pretty good, I thought, except for the usual audience-tested fake ending. I usually mentally discount the last scene of every big budget movie these days, it's the next-to-last scene which is the real ending. It's a convention, they have to do it. I did enjoy the head of the Statue being hurled into the street in Cloverfield which was a great little apocalyse movie, and one I could imagine Richard Matheson writing. I gave that scene my "Best use of the Statue of Liberty in an SF Movie" award for that year. The wonderful tv series The Walking Dead is son-of-I Am Legend and I hope RM enjoyed the first couple of series before he died and didn't come back again.
Two points I want to make: A) the movie was crap, especially when compared to the book, and B) this is so much more than just a vampire novel.
First, the whole movie thing. In both, Robert Neville is the last human on Earth--and that is where all similarities end. If you've seen the movie, it won't ruin the book for you as the two are nothing alike. The setting is different, the protagonist is different (except for a shared name), the creatures are different (vampires in the book and nocturnal zombie-like creatures in the movie), and the plot points--don't even get me started on the plot points. I can understand why diehard fans of the novel were upset by the movie. This is a case of film ruining a superior narrative. Robert Neville's pain, perfectly captured by Matheson, just doesn't translate to the screen.
Second, sure it can be classified as a vampire book, but the vampires are somewhat in the background. What takes center stage in the book is Robert Neville's aching loneliness as he confronts the reality that he is destined to live the rest of his life without the hope of human contact or companionship--what's outside his door at night isn't nearly as terrifying as that prospect. The portrayal of his progression through the stages of acceptance is heartbreaking (the dog chapter was almost more than I could bear). Moral issues abound: what's the point in trying to survive if you know you're the last of your kind? Does it matter if you live to see another day? There are no easy answers, especially as his situation is given complexity by human nature's innate tenacity and stubborness. There's a lot to think about here, which makes it more satisfying than your run of the mill horror novel.
Everything you've heard about I Am Legend is true: it's scary, the way Matheson conveys Neville's descent into madness is brilliant, the post-apocalyptic world is well-crafted, none of the movies inspired by it do it justice ... and the whole thing feels very dated. This isn't to say that it isn't enjoyable, but if your friends have built this up like it's one of the greatest stories ever told, I'd adjust your expectations quite a bit. It is a great story, an in an historical context, it's pretty impressive and important - it was one of the first times (maybe the first time) a medical explanation was given for vampirism - but it feels like it was written in the 1950s, which may not go over very well with some readers.
The volume I read contained some of Matheson's other stories, in addition to I Am Legend, which was a pretty quick read at 170 pages. A couple are real standouts: Buried Talents, The Near Departed, Prey, and Witch War were great, and if the book had just stopped with them, I would have given it 4 or even 5 stars.
Ultimately, though, this book is too long, and it overstays its welcome. Matheson has a very distinctive voice, and as much as I enjoyed his storytelling, by the time I got to The Mad House (a story that I would have loved if it was half as long) I'd had enough, and I put it back on the shelf without reading the last few stories.
“As he entered the silent store, the smell of rotted food filled his nostrils. Quickly he pushed a metal wagon up and down the silent, dust-thick aisles, the heavy smell of decay setting his teeth on edge, making him breathe through his mouth.”
This book was adapted into a 1964 film called “The Last Man on Earth” (the first of several adaptations). I have not seen the film yet but the title is very apt, if a little on the nose, perhaps. The above quote is an example of the feeling of loneliness that pervades throughout the narrative. Robert Neville, the protagonist, is indeed “The Last Man on Earth” (as far as he knows), the rest of the planet having turned into vampires. Halt! I Am Legend is not a “supernatural romance”, yet it is not a gore-fest vampire carnage novel either. I would describe it as a “sci-fi vampire novel”. The vampires are created by . All the classic vampire lores are either rationalized or debunked by Neville’s research.
This rather short novel (about 175 pages) basically depicts Neville’s solitary day-to-day life, from five months after the vampire apocalypse, to three years (skipping a year or two in the timeline). For most of the book, there is no dialogue to speak of, we just follow Neville around, dispatching vampires in the daytime, doing research, locking himself in and getting blotto after sundown, feeling miserable all the time. Is there a point to such an existence? Neville asks himself that from time to time and there is no obvious answer, he is simply not to suicidal type.
I Am Legend is a classic of several genres, sci-fi, horror, vampires, and post-apocalypse. I love the scientific rationalization of the classic vampire lore, the need for blood, the aversion to garlic and the cross, the stake through the heart etc. The overtly supernatural lore like transformation into bats and the lack of reflection are dismissed as superstition. Equally interesting is the contemplation of Neville’s existence and the moral issue. In a world full of vampires with only one human being who is the monster really? The narrative is well paced, without a dull moment, but it is by no means an action-packed thriller. Neville is something of an antihero, some of his actions and behavior are quite questionable and even downright reprehensible but the circumstances do make him quite a tragic and sympathetic figure. There are some dramatic plot developments which I certainly will not elaborate on, and an ending which leaves you thinking about the morality of the tale. I Am Legend is, of course, highly recommended.
Notes: Talking about the various film adaptations:
Four are listed at Wikipedia: • The Last Man on Earth (1964) • The Omega Man (1971) • I Am Legend (2007) • I Am Omega (2007)
I have not seen the 1964 adaptation, I have found a copy now so I will get back to you on that. It does star Vincent Price, and the Price is always right! I have seen the Omega Man decades ago, it stars Charlton Heston, pretty entertaining as I recall. The 2007 Will Smith vehicle which actually uses the novel’s title is a total disappointment. In both the Omega Man and the Will Smith movies the vampires are replaced entirely. The 1971 movie replaced them with light-sensitive goth weirdo hipsters, while the 2007 movie replaced them with big-eared monsters. The Will Smith is particularly disappointing because it uses the novel’s title then goes off in a predictable, cliché direction. Richard Matheson’s nuanced, thought provoking ending is entirely jettisoned. At least the Heston movie is a hoot. I have never heard of "I Am Omega" (2007), probably a lot of product placements for a certain brand of Swiss luxury watches...
• I have not read the "Other Stories" mentioned in the book's title. Don't have this edition, sorry.
Quotes “ There were five of them in the basement, hiding in various shadowed places. One of them Neville found inside a display freezer. When he saw the man lying there in this enamel coffin, he had to laugh; it seemed such a funny place to hide. Later, he thought of what a humorless world it was when he could find amusement in such a thing.”
“After lunch, he went from house to house and used up all his stakes. He had forty-seven stakes.”
“Morality, after all, had fallen with society. He was his own ethic.”["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>
I thoroughly enjoyed this book but the fact that it included stories other than I Am Legend kind of disappointed me. It fooled me into thinking the story was longer than it was and it was so good that I wanted more and thought it was far too short! And I couldn’t help but picture Will Smith the whole time, I’m still not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing. I Am Legend was by far the best story out of the bunch! I’ve already forgotten what the others were about, that’s how little impact they had on me.
Imagine if COVID-19 caused creature from myth to multiply and overrun--there would be at least two threats at ALL TIME. These foes are destroyers! And they arrive from the outside, and within. Two masterful terrors: this is what is presented to us in this, one of the megadaddies of Vampire fiction. (I like this one, but maybe not as much as Let The Right One In, or Interview with the Vampire, but that it belongs in the same shelf, yes.) (Stephen King admits Matheson is his biggest influence, which is no shocker. In the short stories accompanying I Am Legend, he gets us into demonic fetish dolls, otherworldly rituals, inner demons, descents into madness/insanity/extermination, murderers. They are pretty fantastic (if you thought to yourself, how did the Gothic frights of Shirley Jackson become the marketable monsters of Stephen King? Here is that bridge!)
The closest dual-threat type King novels and short stories that even come close to this "kill vamps with microscopes" format, the from inside and out type tales, are The Shining, The Stand, The Mist. (Okay, maybe The Green Mile too, but its not a horror novel.) Laugh at what someone from the 50s thought the apocalypse in the 70s would look like. Prophetic and ingenious! And, yeah, scary.
One of the best books I have read this year. Giving it a rating of 4.5!
This book contains the cult novella "I Am Legend" and ten other stories - all in the genre of the supernatural. I had read this book in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic induced lockdown. What an irony given the fact that the novella deals with a post-apocalypse world where humans have been turned into vampires by some infection.
No need to say that I Am Legend is the star of the show even though the other stories are quite good. My review will focus on the novella. Long time back I had watched the movie adaptation starring Will Smith and found it to be pretty good. I distinctly remember another book lover friend telling me that the book is much better than this "mediocre" (his words exactly) movie. Boy, he was absolutely correct. The story is definitely much better.
Our protagonist - Robert Neville is the only survivor of the plague and yearns for some companionship as he fights to survive each day. But, the vampires are not the only threats he should be worried about. A sense of dread permeates every page of this lean & mean novel. I found the book so well written that putting it down felt like a torture. So much has already been said and written about this story that I hardly have anything new to add. Not sure if I liked the ending so much, but I have to live with it. Horror lovers already know the influence of Matheson in the world of horror literature and movies.
I certainly understand why Richard Matheson is regarded as a master of the horror genre and why even THE Stephen King looked up to him as an inspiration. You can read King’s tribute to Matheson, who passed away in 2013 here.
The other stories in the book are as follows. All are quite good – but I enjoyed The Funeral the most. The reason? It has humour, something I was not expecting in any of these stories.
• Buried Talents • The Near Departed • Prey • Witch War • Dance of the Dead • Dress of White Silk • Mad House • The Funeral • From Shadowed Places • Person to Person
If you like horror, suspense and the macabre, then my dear reader please give this book a try. You won’t be disappointed.
2,4/5* O să scriu aici doar despre I Am Legend pentru că doar atât am citit din volum (mai sunt vreo 6 sau 7 povestiri, dar nu le-am parcurs încă - poate revin cu un update, dacă și când va fi cazul). Despre I Am Legend, mixed feelings. În parte survival-horror (mai puțin partea de horror, și de fapt nici nu prea e survival, dar o să vă explic mai încolo de ce), în parte roman psihologic al singurătății, cred că e unul dintre primele de gen care au avut o abordare practică a situației „ce ai face dacă ai fi singurul om rămas pe lume?”
Robert Neville, personajul principal, supraviețuiește unui virus care ucide și transformă restul populației mondiale în vampiri. Scris la începutul anilor '50, cu limitările de rigoare, face referire la felul în care fake-news-urile distorsionează percepția oamenilor despre evenimentele de pe urmă și împing lumea spre panică (am apreciat bucata asta ca fiind extrem de actuală, chiar și 70 de ani mai târziu), se întreabă chiar care e rostul unor asemenea tactici de creștere a vânzărilor în contextul sfârșitului lumii (o altă bucată de analiză foarte lucidă pe care am apreciat-o) și chiar încearcă să deconstruiască mitul vampirului, oferind câteva explicații inventive (chiar dacă ușor prostești) legate de teama acestor creaturi față de cruci sau alte artefacte religioase, în funcție de credința pe care a avut-o creatura înainte de transformare (teamă care e doar psihologică, pentru că, după cum aflăm, acești vampiri n-au absolut nimic supranatural, sunt doar niște oameni infectați cu o bacterie).
Există o singură scenă de tensiune extremă, care m-a făcut să stau lipit de pagină și singura chestie care m-a convins să mă liniștesc, că Neville vă supraviețui, era că mă aflam abia la începutul cărții. În rest, cartea se mișcă încet, personajul rupe mai multe rutine și încearcă să își păstreze sănătatea mentală în toată singurătatea din jur.
Scriitura mi s-a părut OK, omul are anumite pasaje când abuzează de câte un adjectiv, dar în general cartea e competent scrisă. Totuși, în ciuda multor detalii oferite, tot mi se pare că parcă nu îți spune mare lucru. Gândurile lui Neville sunt uneori banale, alteori interesante, chestii basic, nimic cu adevărat zguduitor.
Acum, problemele vin din altă direcție. Prima, cum ziceam e că povestea dă impresia că e din genul „survival” și „horror” (chiar și Stephen King e citat pe copertă zicând că romanul ăsta a avut o mare influență asupra lui - și, râzând, îi dau dreptate), dar te prinzi extrem de repede că nu-i, de fapt, deloc așa. Neville are la dispoziție o casă mare și confortabilă, un generator care funcționează non-stop și îi dă electricitate, lumină, căldură sau răcoare, are hrană nelimitată, iar dacă rămâne fără, poate să meargă într-un supermarket abandonat și să își refacă stocurile (aparent datele de expirare îs un pic overrated în cartea asta). Când rămâne fără benzină, trage la o benzinărie și își umple rezervorul, de drum e iarăși gata. Când i se strică mașină, își caută alta, pur și simplu, pentru că în universul ăsta, mașinile nemișcate de ani de zile așteaptă doar să bagi cheia în contact. Dimineața are timp să ia micul dejun și să bea două cești de cafea. Seara își face un grătar și îl savurează cu un pahar de vin și muzică clasică la pick-up, iar între cele două momente, bea și citește, sau se plimbă pe străzi, prin librării etc. Lista poate continua, și îți dai seama foarte bine că nu există aproape nicicând sentimentul acela de urgență, de pericol care ar veni la pachet cu ideea că restul populației e formată din vampiri însetați care dau târcoale casei tale pe toată durata nopții, în fiecare noapte. Omul are până și aer condiționat și, în general, mi-a dat impresia că trăiește mai bine decât mine, cu sfârșitul lumii cu tot :)))
Apoi, a doua cea mai mare problemă: antagoniștii cărții sunt cei mai leneși și insipizi vampiri din câți am văzut vreodată. Îi fac pe cei din saga Twilight să pară de-a dreptul amenințători. Neville locuiește în casa lui obișnuită, cu un drug la ușă și ferestrele acoperite cu scânduri, și asta e, aparent, suficient să țină la distanță hoardele de vampiri. Aceștia se adună în fiecare seară în jurul casei sale, și aruncă cu pietre în pereții casei, se mai împing în ușă, dar așa, ușor, să nu cumva s-o dărâme din greșeală, și în rest cred că doar stau acolo, ca niște atârnache, fără vreo direcție anume, pentru că în cei 3 ani cât durează acțiunea cărții, nu reușesc nici măcar să-l sperie pe Neville, omul doarme fără griji în timpul nopții. Ce vreau să zic e că, dacă ai locui într-o casă și ar exista vreo 50 de oameni care să își dorească să te ucidă, poți să pui câte scânduri vrei la ferestre și să ranforsezi cum vrei tu ușa de la intrare - oamenii ăia au nevoie de maxim 30 de minute să intre peste tine și să te lichideze. Conducătorul vampirilor, un bărbat pe nume Corman, îl strigă pe Neville în fiecare seară să iasă afară, ca pruncul ăla prostănac din vecini cu care nu vrei să te joci, și care pur și simplu nu pricepe că ai teme de făcut.
Ce vreau să zic e că, OK, știu că e ficțiune, autorul poa să zică ce vrea și să își forțeze personajele să facă ce vor, I can handle it. Dar chestiuni precum cele de care am vorbit mai sus îmi fac mintea să explodeze. Ce-i asta: o carte cât de cât serioasă sau mă uit la desene cu Tom și Jerry? Nu cer mult, doar niște bun-simț când vine vorba de situații pe care un om cu experiența lui Matheson ar fi trebuit să fie în stare să le construiască mult mai bine.
Ultima parte a cărții mai răscumpără din păcate, dar adaugă și o doză masivă de bullshit, așa că totul se cam anulează. N-am putut s-o consider o lectură prea satisfăcătoare.
All in all, cartea reușește să fie genială în unele momente și absolut stupidă în altele, de aceea aș înclina mai mult spre 2 stele, decât 3.
Robert Neville may be the last living man on Earth, but he is not alone. An incurable plague has mutated every other man, woman, and child into bloodthirsty, nocturnal creatures who are determined to destroy him. By day, he is a hunter, stalking the infected monstrosities through the abandoned ruins of civilization. By night, he barricades himself in his home and prays for dawn.
A unique take on vampire fiction. It's less about the actual vampires and more about the psychological drama that comes from being trapped in the mind of the last man on the planet. The maddening effects of isolation with the constant threat of death waiting just outside, watching Robert drive himself crazy, blasting loud music to drown out the agonizing taunts of the vampires that wear the faces of people he used to know, all while being tortured by the memories of a peaceful past he can never hope to return to. It's more sad than scary, showing that being stuck in your own mind full of regrets without any chance of escape can be scarier than monsters and even the end of the world.
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That's about all I can say about this book. I was really excited to read I Am Legend and the first 70 pages were astounding, but then it just slowly got less and less enjoyable.
You can't blame Matheson, though. When this book was first published in the mid-50s it was the first of its kind. A novella that took a scientific approach to explaining a virus that turned all but Robert Neville into a vampire.
Reading the novel I kept thinking "I've heard this before" but, I realize now that Matheson was probably the first to do it, but now 50 years later others have done it...and better.
If you are interested in this genre I would definitely read the book. Maybe two stars is a little too rough, but I'm not going to mask my disappoint in how a story can start so promisingly and just taper off so terribly. The ending was totally anti-climatic and I could see it coming from a mile away.
This collection also had several short stories by Matheson and I read a few before giving up. They suffer from the same fate as I Am Legend. Matheson was the first, but over the years other people have taken his ideas and improved on them.
When i read this i was not on goodreads so a review now would not do justice, so this is up for a re-read. Matheson is such a good writer and this tale of one man's struggle to preserve the human race and find a way to stop the spread of the hungry beings is short but legendary. There has been quite a few adaptations but most have played with the story and changed some important parts the book is much better. I Am Legend has been adapted to a feature-length film three times (or four, if one includes the Direct to Video film I Am Omega, which does not credit Matheson as the source).
Bram Stoker’s Dracula first popularized the word 'nosferatu' as a synonym for “vampire,” supposedly gleaning it from Romanian folklore. Popular etymology has ascribed the word to the Greek nosophorus, or “plague carrier.” The association of vampires to various diseases is an integral part of the vampire legend.
Matheson’s was the first (?) fictional depiction of vampirism as the result of physiological disease, not supernatural forces. It thus gave an ironic twist to an old pattern: Where vampires once were believed to cause epidemics, here epidemics spawn vampires.
I'm prepared to be burned in effigy for my rating. I just was not a fan of any of these stories. My only reason for faltering is the inspiration that so many modern horror masters have obviously taken from these tales. That's quite apparent. But I just wasn't entertained. Sorry guys!
"Rather than go on suffering, he had learned to stultify himself to introspection. Time had lost its multi-dimensional scope. There was only the present for Robert Neville, the present based on day-to-day survival marked by neither heights of joy nor depth of despair. I am predominantly vegetable, he often thought to himself. That was the way he wanted it."
Less about vampires. More about mental breakdown. An excellent horror story. Unless you're a fan of The Twilight Zone, the other short stories pale in comparison.
It was really good. Neville is a very interesting protagonist. You really want to root for him that he will survive. I don't want to spoil you, but the ending will definitely hit you like a one-two punch. I definitely wanted a different one. Nevertheless it was one of the best short stories I have ever read. I finished I am Legend more than a year ago. It had such an effect on my psyche that I had to put the book down. Let me tell you a secret. I am a bit of a whimp when it comes to horror. Yet like the worst masochist, I adore horror. I love being scared and that feeling of unsettledness that settles in your stomach like a heavy meal. Anyway, I felt like I wanted to finish it, because I really liked Matheson's writing. And I paid a lot of money for the book ;) I pulled it out the summer I moved back to TX and read some more. There were some excellently written stories, all deeply disturbing. One of the most effecting is one where a henpecked young woman under her mother's thumb buys a Zuni doll for her boyfriend that her mother has forced her to break up with. The Zuni warrior comes to life and tries to kill her. She manages to survive but her mind is possessed by the Zuni doll and she calls her mother over to visit. The story ends with her jabbing a knife into the floor in the same motion the Zuni doll uses. The end is particularly disconcerting because you know that a horrendous fate awaits her mother.
Another story was a little too unsettling. It's set in the future after wars and people have barely managed to keep a semblance of normal life. A sheltered suburban girl meets a dangerous crowd in college. They go to the city to a club where there is a unique show. A woman who has become effectively a zombie from a drug that she overdosed on. That scene was really hard to read because the horror is knowing that this was a normal girl who was changed by this drug she abused. And the other element of horror rests in the fact that the young, sheltered woman is about to walk down the same path. That was not my favorite story.
Another story features a man who goes to the funeral parlor to plan his wife's service and arrangement. It ends with him going home to kill his wife. Very unsettling. As I have described, some of the stories are quite disturbing, some horrific, and some humorous.
I loved the story in the funeral parlor where a vampire wants a funeral and he invites a host of ghoulish creatures. And the witch and this other character has a fight. Of course the werewolf has to go because he is called by the moon to hunt. It was really funny.
I also loved the one where the guy has been hexed by a witch doctor in Africa and his fiance calls her anthropologist friend who studied witch doctors to save him. It was really really good-my second favorite after I am Legend. I think it be great as a movie short.
Probably the most disturbing story was the one with a man who has anger issues. His anger has possessed his house, for lack of a better description. He is a frustrated writer who cannot write and has allowed bitterness to kill him slowly. Strange things happen to him at home, rungs slip, pencils jab him, he bangs his knee everytime he sits down at the table. His wife has decided to leave him and he cannot ask her to stay, although he loves here. His friend at the university where he works who is a scientist warns him about the house but he doesn't listen. He manages to get fired by yelling at a student and goes home. His wife is there and asks him to tell her to stay, he runs her off, and the house takes his revenge. This story comes across like a Greek tragedy. You can see the path that the character is taking but you are helpless to stop it. This is the side aspect of horror. The horror lies not necessarily in the supernatural elements but the poor choices the characters make.
I can see why Matheson is cited as an influence by Stephen King. He definitely has a feel for the horrific in various forms.
Pretty amazing a story from 1954 can still pack such a punch! I am Legend is a classic of psychological horror, centered on perhaps the sole survivor of a bizarre 'vampire plague' for lack of better words. The tale starts off with Robert Neville living in his boarded up house as the vampires only come out at night. During the day, he completes various chores and wanders the old neighborhood killing vampires with wooden stakes to thin the population down.
The punch of the story concerns Robert's existentialist musings as he struggles with his loneliness and the simple futility of it all. Matheson utilizes very clipped prose in almost staccato bursts that highlight Robert's struggles. As the story progresses, Matheson gives us some backstory going back to the start of the 'plague' and Robert's research into what caused the plague. Very interesting take on vampires for sure! I can see why this is an iconic story-- a true post-apocalyptic story penned during the height of fears of nuclear war, and one that established some of the most popular tropes in this genre. I know there are several films made of this one, but I only remember one with Charleton Heston that was ok if very different from the book. Good stuff, 3.5 stars, rounding up as it is a classic!