Book Review: I am Legend

I am Legend

Okay, someone explain to me why this 1954 novel by Richard Matheson is supposed to be a classic of the horror genre. Because I don’t get it. It actually starts off with a pretty interesting premise: Robert Neville is, as far as he knows, the last human on Earth. A plague has turned everyone else into vampires, and he spends his days fortifying his house against their attacks and his nights trying to research a cure for the disease.

Okay, cool. That’s a good start. The problem is that Matheson just doesn’t go anywhere with it. The main character just plods around for a few hundred pages, fighting depression, alcoholism, and his sex drive. Then, when things DO start to develop with the introduction of another character who may also be a surviving human, the story collapses and just …ends. Like, it just comes to the end of a paragraph and stops without resolving hardly any of the mysteries, plot threads (few as they are), or even action that was set up.

What’s really weird is that there’s quite a bit of book left after the story ends. On the very next page there begins a series of short stories that are utterly unconnected from novel I was just reading. So you got some guy who’s really good at throwing ping pong balls, a tiny but murderous statue that comes to life, a haunted house, et cetera. None of these relates back, and the jarring transition is completely unexplained. It’s weird and annoying.

Matheson’s writing is a bit melodramatic in places, but generally good. I just don’t get what all the praise was about.

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: I am Legend

  1. I like the story, and thought it as great, but the ending is a bit jarring. You go from the day-to-day wandering of the last human to excitement building and then a sudden stop. Still, I thought the everyday life of the last guy alive was interesting. Check out the movie adaption with Vincent Price if you have the chance, it’s pretty good. Last Man n Earth is the title.

  2. I haven’t read this book, but someone was talking about it on another forum and went looking for more information about it.
    You start your review by asking why this 1954 novel by Richard Matheson is supposed to be a classic of the horror genre. I don’t know if this might be part of the explanation, but I notice that a number of other sites refer to this as a classic of science fiction. In fact, some of the most positive reviews I’ve found seem to come from science fiction websites.
    I’m just guessing, because I haven’t read this book yet, but I wonder if you might have appreciated it more if you had read it as a classic of post-apocolyptic sci-fi rather than a classic of the horror genre.

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