Richard Matheson – I Am Legend

Title: I Am Legend
Author: Richard Matheson
Year:1954

Some people think that there is something dark, mysterious and romantic with people who live off other people’s blood. Personally, I’ve never felt the slightest attraction to the concept of vampires (possibly with the exception of Feet of Clay by Terry Pratchett); I find them boring and often bound by too many clichés, and I’m usually more scared by the fans of this genre of fiction rather than the stories themselves. So why read I Am Legend, which at least by some is viewed as one of the more important works in the genre, popularising the concept of an apocalypse brought about a vampire/zombie generating epidemic. I decided to have a look mostly because the book was quite short and I had heard some good words about Richard Matheson, the author.

Even though this books was written more than fifty years ago, it still manages to deliver something that a variety of films and other products (such as role-playing games) have been unable to produce, namely a story with vampires I think is worthwhile. The plot is straightforward, fast-paced and quite entertaining. Matheson’s use of black humour to tell the story of a lone man trying to survive in a world of vampires makes me smile often, but without making the book frivolous or comical in itself; it’s still apocalypse and it’s still a tragedy.

I like this book a lot, mostly because of the fluency with which the story is told and the spectrum of emotions and effects the author is able to induce in me as a reader. Admittedly, the plot itself is mediocre and actually not very important, but this fails to have an major impact on my perception of the book. In other words, the fight against the horde of vampires is there, but my dislike for the creatures doesn’t make the book worse (it goes without saying that it doesn’t make the book better either, but still). The fact that the novel is only 160 pages long and very few passages feel long-winded and/or further improves the overall impression. I didn’t expect this much, but I’m prepare to read more of Richard Matheson’s books. This one receives an astounding four and a half snails!

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  1. Xhakhal’s avatar

    A fun thing with this book is that even though the creatures are called vampires, even though they feed of blood and even though garlic wards them off – they’re so different from most pop culture depiction of vampires from the past years that they really are more like allergic zombies, sort of. Which doesn’t make things better for me – I find most depictions of zombies in pop culture to be extremely boring. Some parts of a zombie apocalypse I can really enjoy (infection fear, slow societal breakdown, you know, the sort of things that happens while the apocalypse is going on rather than after it has already happened and it’s all shotguns and canned food) but the parts depicted in I Am Legend? Not so much.
    Which brings me to my point.
    This book manages to deal with a theme I’m tired of, using creatures I’m sick of and a plot I’ve read a million times – and I still would have given it the same amount of snails (or some other measurement – I still haven’t decided what I’d use. Horsis?) that you did, for how it was written and presented. And also for its appropriate length.

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  2. Svante’s avatar

    Har du sett filmen? Den första knappa timmen, med skildringen av ett öde New York, är mycket stämningsfull, och en av de bättre skildringarna av hur jag tänker mig en nära-postapokalyptisk framtid, typ som när vi spelade cthulhuapokalypsspelet. Sen blir det i och för sig rätt dåligt, men det behöver man ju inte titta på. :)

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    1. Martin Ackerfors’s avatar

      Är man på det humöret finns det ju minst 3 filmer. I am Legend är mycket riktigt väldigt skön till en början, men så snart actionscenerna bryter ut blir det rätt trist. Will Smith är oväntat bra. (Min recension.)

      Sen har vi The Omega Man (1971) med förra seklets mest trötsamma kliché, Charlton Heston. Den är enormt dålig på alla tänkbara vis. (Min recension.)

      Dessutom har vi ju The Last Man on Earth (1964) som jag tyvärr inte sett, men med Vincent Price i huvudrollen är det svårt att se hur den skulle kunna vara dålig. :)

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      1. Olle Linge’s avatar

        Jag har inte sett någon av dem och vet inte om jag är vidare sugen på att göra det heller. :) Boken var bra nog och jag har tillräckligt många andra flimer på listan över sådant jag borde se. Tack för tipsen i alla fall. :)

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      2. Johan’s avatar

        Jag tycker filmen I Am Legend är rätt bra, och om man subtraherar zombiesgrejen är konceptet en fantasi jag haft länge. Har ofta funderat på vad man skulle man göra om alla andra människor bara försvann. Mitt svar har alltid varit att hitta närmsta mjukglassmaskin…

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