Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Book Pick: I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

The book I Am Legend, in many ways, is more chilling than the movie. And the ending is very different - in the book, you'll learn the true source of the title.  As the back cover says, "The Last Man On Earth Is Not Alone..."

It is, in fact, one of the best books I read in 2009.  Yet it's a bit hard to classify.  Is it horror?  Science fiction?  Supernatural?

Either way, it brings to life the horrors we so love in our recent books and movies - the deadly bloodsuckers, the mobs of flesh-eaters, the horror of being alone in a world surrounded by creatures thirsting for the taste of you...

Best of all, it combines the terror-show with a regular, everyday protagonist doing his best to figure out what exactly happened, why it happened, and how to change it.  Granted, the novel is from 1954, so the solitary warrior Robert Neville isn't equipped with the fanciful equipment we have today (no GPS, no remote-detonated mines - just a man with a mallet and a truckload of wooden stakes...), but the premise of the novel itself is solid.  And, in a way, it works better than the movie because of the low-tech approach.  Because the Robert Neville of the novel is not a scientist or doctor, he's forced to piece things together from incomplete knowledge, and the explanations given are couched in the kind of uncertainty which allows the reader to suspend disbelief.

Almost as an afterthought, it seems, they've included several of Matheson's short stories in this edition.  And they're really no afterthought.  Chilling is a good word to describe them.

Overall - highly recommended.
And what DVD collection would be complete without Will Smith blasting his way through hordes of undead creatures in Central Park?

I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, though it is very different from the book.  An important component for both the book and the movie is the sense of personal loss suffered by the protagonist, but I feel the movie actually carries this a step further.  Through flashback and Will Smith's rages, we see that this character is really and truly suffering, and that he's taken on the eradication of the undead as more of a matter of penance than mere survival.

1 comment:

Arlee Bird said...

The I Am Legend movie was pretty good as far as a modern effects driven book, but in spirit I prefer the Vincent Price version from the early 60s The Laat Man on Earth. If I'm not mistaken the original Matheson book was written back in the 50s and the author also wrote the book which The Incredible Shrinking Man was based on -- that was one of the great scifi films of the 50s in my opinion.