Monday, November 12, 2007

I Am Legend — a must read!

I don’t read a lot of horror. Well, modern horror, anyway. I’ve read Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Louis Stevenson, Gustav Meyrink, and other, proto-horror. Plus some quasi-horror by people like Ray Bradbury, Chuck Palahniuk, Michael Crichton, and Scott Smith. But Stephen King, Anne Rice, Dean Koontz, Clive Barker, no, not a one. (Well, not their horror novels; I did read Stephen King’s memoir, On Writing, and Anne Rice’s fetish novel, Exit to Eden, published under a pseudonym). It’s a bit surprising, I guess, since I love horror movies, but I digress ...

I just finished reading Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel, I Am Legend, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Somewhere between horror and science fiction, but closer to the former, it’s not only a creepy thriller, but an extremely well-written novel. Taut, exciting, inventive. With some very original things to say about vampires. And though written fifty years ago, it doesn’t feel at all dated — which in itself is quite an amazing accomplishment. Give it a look, and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

I saw a trailer for the upcoming film version, starring Will Smith, which looked quite good. So when I learned the film was based on a novel, I got it from the library. If a movie I’m interested in is based on a book, I’ll usually read it first (as with Jurassic Park, Big Fish, Little Children — to name just a few). Invariably, the novel is better, and I’m sure this will be true of I Am Legend also.

Has anyone else read it? Or other Matheson?


  1. Even though the title only makes sense with the book's ending, can the movie possibly keep it?

  2. Let’s tread carefully around spoilers, Brigand, but I take your point. :)

    In fact, having just read the book, I can’t help wondering just how well (faithfully, I mean) it can be adapted for film at all. So much of it is internalized in an inner monologue of the protagonist, Robert Neville — unavoidable in “last man” scenarios. Will we get a running voice-over, for instance?

    Of course, this challenge hasn’t stopped Hollywood from filming two previous adaptations of the novel, has it? The Last Man on Earth (1964) and The Omega Man (1971). Has anyone seen either film? I have not.

    I also wonder whether or how much of an influence Mary Shelley’s novel, The Last Man, might have been on Matheson. The plots are roughly similar. And it, too, has just been adapted to film (though for the the first time), ready for a timely release some time soon after I Am Legend. Lame, eh? Shades of Deep Impact vs. Armageddon all over again. Or A Bug’s Life vs. Antz. (All four of which hit screens in 1998.) What’s next, a film version of Daniel Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year?

  3. I just thought I'd let you know that Matheson wrote the original novel (?) that the Kevin Bacon film "Stir of Echoes" was based. Cool to know, eh?

  4. Yeah, terrific. Thanks for sharing that, FishWife. And ditto for What Dreams May Come. Remember how intriguing that movie was? I keep remembering that Ray Bradbury quote from the flyleaf that Richard Matheson is “one of the most important writers of the 20th century.” How can I not have heard of him before now?! I guess just because I’ve never really been indoctrinated into the horror genre (and not as deeply into science fiction as you’d think, either). I’m going to have to read some more stuff by this guy!