I just finished reading I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. I decided to read the book instead of see the movie for several reasons. First, I’m a cheap skate. A movie’s got to be really good for me to clunk down $10 for admission and then $15 for snacks and a soda. What a racket. Second, I like books better. There’s no better director, especially when it comes to horror, than your own mind. Lastly, I have a thing for fiction written back in the 50’s and 60’s. Call me old school but the stories written back then just seemed to be more creative and made much deeper examinations of society. It’s kind of interesting to see how much or how little we’ve changed over time.
Anyway, the book is about a guy who survives a plague that rapidly sweeps the world, turning everyone into vampires. But these aren’t Count Dracula type vampires, these are real vampires; People who have contracted a disease that alters their minds and bodies giving them a thirst for blood, an aversion for the sun’s rays and the ability to “live” even though technically dead. The medical explanation for the vampire like behavior is one of the things I like best about this book. It makes it believable to me. The prevailing theme of Hollywood beautiful, leather wearing, techno music loving, sex fiend vampires in books and movies is just lame.
The real heart of the story though is the emotions that the main character, Robert Neville, has to deal with as he first loses his loved ones, then fights to survive. That alone would make an great action story, but the story goes much deeper into his psyche and what it means to truly be alone. What would it like being the only person on the planet? Nobody to talk to. Nobody to interact with, unless you were killing them to protect yourself. That’s the real meat of the story in my mind and I think that’s another reason for reading a book instead of seeing a movie. Those kinds of emotions can be more deeply explored in a book.
So it was a really good read, and a relatively short one as well. It’s funny because the story ended halfway through the 312 pages. Even though the book says “I Am Legend” on the cover, it’s actually a collection of Matheson’s stories. So that’s a bonus. I’m looking forward to checking out some of his other work.