Book Review: I Am Legend – Richard Matheson


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Release Date: January 1999
Publisher: SF Masterworks
Pages: 160.
Find it on: Goodreads. Amazon.

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An astounding vampire tale that makes me rethink everything I know about vampire stories!

Robert Neville is the last man on earth. Everyone else has been affected by a deadly disease, known as vampirism. During the day he searches for anyone left living, as well as destroying the vampire monsters. By night he boards up his house, drinks away his loneliness and prays for morning. Continually haunted by the image of his wife, Neville attempts to survive for as long as he possibly can, but toiling away day in and day out, with no hope of any change, how long has he got?

This book is just fantastic. It’s the sort of book I just want to give to every person and say “read it, read it now.” It’s intelligent, it’s different it really changed the way I thought of the vampire genre. Robert Neville is such an interesting character, he deals with such pain and turmoil and Matheson highlights the hardships Neville encounters, and how much he has to fight just to stay alive every day. He lives a monotonous life, fixing his house, killing vampires, drinking, eating and sleeping. He doesn’t have any hope for a brighter future.

This book has been the inspiration for so much in Hollywood, three different movie adaptations as well as inspiration for various cult classics and the zombie genre. It also reinvented the vampire narrative, instead of focusing solely on the vampire and it’s destroying the world, Matheson employs science and rationalisation, in order to understand the vampire genre.It is an interesting and original mix of horror and science fiction, and it leaves you feeling unsettled. It also makes it feel much more real. Vampirism isn’t exactly the most believable of diseases, but environmental problems causing sand storms and the migration of mosquitoes containing the virus sounds infinitely possible and adds a very frightening and real tone to the novel.

This book had me completely hooked from the outset, I so wanted Neville to win, wanted him to find people and start a new life and live happily ever after. But that is not to be. He becomes obsolete, the reminder of a race that once was, he instils fear in the people of Earth. The novel really looks at the idea of loneliness, and grief, as well as the notion of humanity. Does Robert have any humanity left? He claims to be the only human left on Earth, yet he destroys people while they sleep without a blink of an eye. This really is a fascinating story.

It has some great quotable lines, ones that really make you think.

“No longer will you be a weird Robinson Crusoe, imprisoned on an island of night surrounded by oceans of death.”   

I’m not going to say too much more about the story, I urge you to read this though, don’t just watch the movie adaptations because they don’t for a second do justice to this wonderful wonderful book.

Looking for something similar? Try: Dark Benediction or Counter-Clock World.


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2 thoughts on “Book Review: I Am Legend – Richard Matheson

  • Anastasia

    🙂 Hey great review! I actually saw movie with Will Smith before reading this book…then I was like oh it’s a book! 😀 Embarrasing really…
    Will Smith played his role very well, however I really liked the book better (as usually is the case). Though I was surprised how short it was and how different the ending was. And quotable indeed 🙂

    • The Bibliophile Chronicles

      Thanks! I was the same, I knew it was a book but I’d never read it, so I finally decided to get cracking with it. I totally agree with you, the book ending is so much better, it’s such a fantastic book! I kind of wish they’d made the ending more true to the book!