January 23, 2008
I Am Legend
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
Finished on 1/13/08
Rating: 2/5 (Below Average)
The Sci-Fi Experience 2008 #1
Robert Neville is the last living man on Earth...but he is not alone. Every other man, woman, and child on Earth has become a vampire, and they are all hungry for Neville's blood.
By day, he is the hunter, stalking the sleeping undead through the abandoned ruins of civilization. By night, he barricades himself in his home and prays for the dawn.
How long can one man survive in a world of vampires?
After recently watching I Am Legend, starring Will Smith, I decided to read the novel for Carl's Sci-Fi Experience. I'm not sure what I was thinking. This isn't really science fiction. At least I wouldn't think so. It seems to fall more into the category of horror. Yes, it's a post-apocalyptic novel, yet the emphasis is more on the vampires than the disaster. However, since it was written in 1954 and set in 1976, I suppose it can be viewed as a work of science fiction.
This is one of those rare instances in which the movie is better than the book. I did not care for the novel at all. It felt dated, particularly the dialogue (yes, in addition to his internal thoughts, Neville -- in spite of having no one to speak to -- speaks out loud). It reminded me a bit of Earth Abides, with the continuous internal ruminations.
In addition to the title story, there are ten short stories included in the edition I read: "Buried Talents," "The Near Departed," "Prey," "Witch War," "Dance of the Dead," "Dress of White Silk," "Mad House," "The Funeral," "From Shadowed Places," and "Person to Person." Go here for a brief synopsis of each story (listed in the right-hand sidebar of the site).
I didn't particularly care for any of these stories (I've never been a big fan of short stories), although I suspect several will stick in my memory for a long, long time. A few are quite creepy (in an Outer Limits/Twilight Zone manner) and some have a darkly humorous feel.
I sure wish I felt the same as these folks:
One of the most important writers of the twentieth century - Ray Bradbury
The most clever and riveting vampire novel since Dracula - Dean Koontz
I think the author who influenced me the most as a writer was Richard Matheson. Books like I Am Legend were an inspiration to me. - Stephen King
About the Author (from Amazon.com):
In addition to novels in the mystery, science fiction, horror, fantasy, and western genres, Matheson has been a prolific writer of film and television scripts. He wrote the script for some of the most memorable episodes of The Twilight Zone, including "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" (you remember -- William Shatner sees a gremlin on the wing of the plane...), "The Invaders," and "Little Girl Lost." He also wrote episodes of Have Gun, Will Travel, Night Gallery, and Star Trek (among them "The Enemy Within," in which Kirk is split into good and evil halves).
Several of Matheson's novels and stories have been made into films, including The Shrinking Man (filmed as "The Incredible Shrinking Man" in 1957), I Am Legend (filmed twice, once as "The Last Man on Earth" starring Vincent Price in 1964, and again as "The Omega Man" starring Charlton Heston in 1971), and Bid Time Return (filmed as "Somewhere in Time" starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour in 1980). Matheson also wrote the scripts for Stephen Spielberg's first feature film, Duel; the TV-movie The Night Stalker, which drew a record 75 million viewers on its first broadcast; and several of Roger Corman's Edgar Allan Poe films, including House of Usher (1960), The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), and The Raven (1963).
Over a career spanning five decades, Matheson has won numerable prestigious awards, including the World Fantasy Convention's Life Achievement Award, the Bram Stoker Award for Life Achievement, the Hugo Award, the Edgar Allan Poe Award, the Golden Spur Award, and the Writer's Guild Award. Born in New Jersey in 1926, Matheson has lived and worked in California since 1951.
I eagerly await the dvd release of this film. I loved watching it on the big screen, but it will be great fun to watch the bonus material. This goes high on my list of favorite movies. Don't miss it! The book, on the other hand, didn't impress me nearly as much.