My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Don’t expect Will Smith’s movie I Am Legend (2007) if you read Richard Matheson’s original 1954 novel. As with any novel-to-film adaptation, directors take poetic license: the film’s vampires, for instance, are soul-less brutes.
Though the film holds up on its own, it’s no match for the novel.
Robert Neville is the only human left in a post-apocalytic world inhabited by vampires. To survive, he locks himself in a boarded, locked and garlic-filled home at night, and stalks around a devastated Los Angeles killing the vampires by day.
While the novel has vampires—a horror staple—it works just as well as science fiction (it’s in fact part of Gollancz’s SF Masterworks series, the books of which I’ve been trying to find and read, in part as another reading project, as well as to learn from SF masters). The vampirism, Neville discovers, is a disease, and an apparently uncurable one.
And though Neville struggles to understand the disease, it turns out (spoiler alert) he’s the legend of which the novel’s title speaks.
The novel is a dark but philosophically powerful book, ultimately humanistic in outlook, despite its ending.