I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

source: purchased
title: I Am Legend
author: Richard Matheson
published: 1954
pages: 161
first line: On those cloudy days, Robert Neville was never sure when the sunset came, and sometimes they were in the streets before he could get back.
rated: 5 out of 5


It seems strange to find a 1954 vampire novel in Millennium’s “SF Masterworks” classic reprints series. I Am Legend, though, was a trailblazing and later much imitated story that reinvented the vampire myth as SF. Without losing the horror, it presents vampirism as a disease whose secrets can be unlocked by scientific tools. The hero Robert Neville, perhaps the last uninfected man on Earth, finds himself in a paranoid nightmare. By night, the bloodthirsty undead of small-town America besiege his barricaded house: their repeated cry “Come out, Neville!” is a famous SF catchphrase. By day, when they hide in shadow and become comatose, Neville gets out his wooden stakes for an orgy of slaughter. He also discovers pseudoscientific explanations, some rather strained, for vampires’ fear of light, vulnerability to stakes though not bullets, loathing of garlic, and so on. What gives the story its uneasy power is the gradual perspective shift which shows that by fighting monsters Neville is himself becoming monstrous–not a vampire but something to terrify vampires and haunt their dreams as a dreadful legend from the bad old days. I Am Legend was altered out of recognition when filmed as The Omega Man (1971), starring Charlton Heston. Avoid the movie; read the book. –David Langford

my thoughts:

Hello blog friends, I have been MIA and missed you all these few weeks but I did manage to read I Am Legend and wanted to share my thoughts on it. I’ve been busy with the usual work, family and just enjoying the summer. We even went on a mini-vacation to the beach last weekend. I’ll share pics on a Sunday post soon and I’ll be blog hopping this weekend and catching up.

Anyway, I picked I Am Legend out of left field really, it wasn’t a book I even planned on reading anytime soon but I found myself in a reading slump and this one helped get me out of that.
Richard Matheson wrote I Am Legend in 1954 and he set his futuristic post-apocalyptic thriller in 1976. The protagonist is Robert Neville, who has lived alone for a few years after losing his wife to a virus that infected most of Earth’s population and turned them into the living dead. The virus was thought to have been spread by mosquitoes after a war. Neville lives boarded up in his home, drinking often to ease the pain of his lone existence. He ventures out during daylight in search of food and supplies while also killing vampires. He spends his days trying to figure out the virus and how to cure it. I felt bad for him from the start. You get to see his past through a few flashbacks. I felt that Matheson wrote Neville’s loneliness and desolation masterfully and he was really creative with his storyline.

Horror he had adjusted to. But monotony was the greater obstacle, he realized it now, understood at long last. And understanding it seemed to give him a sort of quiet peace, a sense of having spread all the cards on his mental table, examined them, and settled conclusively on the desired hand.
p. 101, I Am Legend, Richard Matheson

Some of the vampires can speak, others are fully dead and cannot. Something about that just got under my skin, that some of the vampires could still speak, that they were still technically living. Neville’s old neighbor continues to call and taunt him as a vampire. Just like most zombie stories today, everyone is infected, some people are immune, like Neville. Reading this one I realized that Matheson has influenced the vampire/zombie genre greatly. While the pacing was slow at times, I very much enjoyed I Am Legend and found myself fully immersed in a creative storyline, which was both bleak yet at the same time showcased the endurance of the human spirit in the worst of times. Neville knew the odds were stacked against him, yet he just kept going until the end.

The last lines are powerful ones in terms of the story. I won’t be forgetting these.

Full circle, he thought while the lethargy crept into his limbs. Full circle. A new terror born in death, a new superstition entering the unassailable fortress of forever.
I am legend.

-Richard Matheson

Although different from the book, I think the movie is worth checking out as well, Will Smith is a favorite. Here is the trailer.

Disclaimer: This review is my honest opinion. I did not receive any kind of compensation for reading and reviewing this book. I am under no obligation to write a positive review. I purchased my copy of I Am Legend.

19 thoughts on “I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

  1. I am glad you enjoyed your time at the beach, Naida! I am looking forward to my upcoming vacation, although I don’t imagine it will involve a beach. Still, it will be fun to get away for awhile. I was just eyeing I Am Legend on my shelf and wondering when I might actually get to it. I think the copy I have is my husband’s, but I do want to read it. I am so glad you liked it! I haven’t seen the movie. I always said I would once I read the book . . . Well, you see how well that has gone. Haha

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Wendy. Enjoy your vacation too, it is great to be able to get away and relax. I enjoyed I Am Legend, although it was mostly bleak, I like those end of the world type stories. The movie is different and I liked both. I think I liked the movie a bit more because Will Smith is easy on the eyes. 🙂 Enjoy your weekend!


  2. I think that I would like this book. Richard Matheson books have been the basis of several good films and I believe that he wrote several screenplay for the Original Start Trek television series.

    There are several film versions of this book in addition to the Will Smith film. Charleston Heston’s The Omega Man was a classic. There was also a Vincent Price version called The last man on earth which i also thought was very good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Brian. I think you would enjoy this one too. I did hear about the two films you mentioned, they sound good and Vincent Price was a great actor.
      Enjoy your weekend!


  3. Hi Naida,

    Speaking on a purely selfish level, it is good to have you back in the blogosphere, however briefly.

    I am so pleased that you managed to get some time away from the everyday rat race.

    The summer holidays don’t officially start until the end of July here, and at the moment we are in full prom mode for those just finishing their exams.

    This probably isn’t a book for me, despite the fact that I found the writing style really appealing. I also noticed when I went back to check on ‘The Omega Man’, (which I remember all too well I’m ashamed to say), that was in fact the second film to be based on this book, with ‘The Last Man On Earth’ arriving on the screen some 7 years earlier. Having read up about the original, this definitely sounds like one film to be avoided at all costs.

    Thanks for sharing and I love the alternative cover for the book, which can be found on the Goodreads site…


    Enjoy your Sunday 🙂


    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Yvonne. It is always nice to get some blogging time in. Prom season is a big thing here as well.

      I have heard of The Omega Man and The Last Man on Earth too.
      About the alternate book cover, that’s the one I have. I really dislike it, that is why I used the film version one with my review. 🙂 The original one creeps me out.
      Thanks for stopping in and enjoy your weekend!


  4. Excellent review, Naida! I’m glad you had a chance to get away and relax for a bit. I saw the movie a few years ago, and enjoyed watching the trailer just now.

    Have a terrific long weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Awesome review. I watched the movie version and LOVED it. It was an amazing movie. Yep, the words at the end was fantastic. I haven’t read the book yet but I believe it must be equally awesome. 😁👍🏻


  6. I should check this out, it sounds interesting. (Haven’t watched the movie either.) I’m reading a different book now with a virus killing almost everyone – The Stand. I’m at the part where Randall Flagg is introduced. So far there’s an interesting collection of characters, and it’s of course really disturbing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      • Update on The Stand – I stopped reading it partway through. It started out strong and suspenseful, but it lost itself somewhere (characters stayed wooden, the plot started feeling really forced). Maybe you’ll wind up getting more out of it than I did 🙂 I know people who loved it.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi HKatz, that’s too bad but it happens. As much as I love King, I brought along Mr Mercedes on vacation last week and I tried to make it past the first 30 pages or so and I just could not do it. I tried twice, then found something else to read which I breezed right through.
    I know The Stand is a King favorite, I wonder how I’ll do with it when I get to it. A forced plot and wooden characters are no good.
    Hope your next read is great and happy weekend.


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