I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

MathesonIAmLegendWhy I Read It: It’s a classic & I saw the Will Smith movie a few years ago and wanted to read the book it was based on.

Where I Got It: Own it – through paperbackswap.com

Who I Recommend This To: Those who enjoy horror flicks without the overly gross bits would enjoy this.

Narrator: Robertson Dean

Publisher: Blackstone Audio (2007)

Length: 5 hours 19 minutes

It’s the second half of the 1970s in California. Robert Neville’s world will slowly crumble over several months. We first meet him as a single man living in a fortified suburban house, going through his daily survival routine, which entails cooking, cleaning up his yard, refortifying his house as needed, stringing garlic, removing the bodies to the burning pit on the outskirts of town, topping off his gas tank, and drinking excessively. Indeed, Robert Neville is not particularly healthy in mind, spirit, or body. Through flashbacks, we glimpse his life before the decline of known society. He has a job, a wife, a daughter. But the plague took them and left him to deal with the aftermath.

At first, it is not clear to the reader what we are dealing with – vampires? zombies? merely the deranged left over few humans that survived some sort of plague? I’ll leave it up to you to read it and make up your own mind. This is one of the things I really enjoyed about the book – it didn’t follow any solid fantasy/horror trope. Instead, Robert Neville spends quality time at the local library digging up science texts, learning how a virus or bacteria could spread through out humanity, why the infected need sleep during the day, why garlic repels them. Indeed, Richard Matheson builds science into this horror story, which makes it all the more frightening in the end.

I went back and forth on liking Robert Neville. He isn’t the brightest of the bunch. Initially he seems a decent sort – missing his family and friends, questioning his own sanity, feeling conflicted about hunting and disposing of the ‘monsters’ by day. He’s also obsessed with sex. One comment had me rolling my eyes a bit – something along the lines about how it would be worse to die a virgin than to become one of the blood-needy monsters that prowl around his house at night. Really? Sigh…. But, on the other hand, it goes to show his loneliness and his possible slow slip into depravity.

Yet Robert rallies, digs into his science and experiments, and the second half of the book was even more interesting than the beginning. I began to feel for Robert and his lonely plight, his messed up purpose in life, his questions of whether or not he was the only uninfected human left alive. The ending was not what I expected at all, but I found it very fitting, satisfying, and a good explanation of the title.

The narrator put all his feeling into Robert Neville – the anguish, frustration, surprise, tender loneliness truly came through. The narrator was a perfect fit for this characters.

What I Liked: A horror flick without the gore and with the science; Robert Neville is a conflicted character and his plight comes through loud and clear; the ending was very satisfying.

What I Disliked: Very few female characters with primary roles as love/sex interest.

This book was originally published in 1954 and has been made into several movies over the years. This fits nicely into the Ye Olde Booke Clubbe challenge hosted by Darkcargo. Anyone can join in the fun!

What Others Think:

Lynn’s Book Blog


The Ink Slinger

Geeks of Doom

Leeswamme’s Blog

8 thoughts on “I Am Legend by Richard Matheson”

  1. I enjoyed this one too but the lack of female characters gets a bit old. When I think of horror, this is the type of story I think of. It’s the psychological aspect of Robert being alone that’s interesting and not the bits of brain and gore splattered everywhere that I like. You do alternate between feeling bad for Robert and being incredibly annoyed at him though. I thought the movie held up pretty good to the book too. I don’t listen to many books but I can see this working well.

    1. I really liked that this book made me feel the gambit of emotions. In the end, Robert Neville was very human, neither totally good or totally bad.

      And, yes, some have pointed out to me that he was alone so I shouldn’t knock the book for lack of females…..but I say that what few females were in the book could have been much more than sex/romance interests.

  2. I see what you’re saying about the lack of females although I wouldn’t say I thought about it much at the time (plus he was on his own so there were literally no other characters – except for the baddies of course). I mean, I see that it’s not the jolliest of films for sure but I loved the ending and how it’s so significant. At the end of the day the world had moved on and left Neville behind. The monsters had developed and were even becoming civilised whilst Neville was doing the reverse. Going out and murdering every night until he’d actually become the bogeyman that everyone else was scared of – it’s brilliant really.
    Lynn 😀

    1. Yes, the brilliant turn around – Neville going from the last civilized man to the legendary bogeyman of the new civilization – was perfect. I had not fully grasped that from watching the movie, but this book makes it very clear where the title comes from.

  3. Of course, you could say a lack of people… I had seen the movie and did not like it. But I knew the book had to be loads better to have stood the test of time, and of course it is. I really liked this one and the narrator really brought it to life for me.

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