Sunday, July 12, 2009
REVIEW: I Am Legend
I Am Legend
Author: Richard Matheson
Publisher: Orb/$14.95 (317 pages)
Date of Publication: 1954/1995
Reviewed by James J. Gormley (member, National Book Critics Circle)
The introduction that many people have recently had to Richard Matheson and his classic vampire story, I am Legend, was in the form of the eponymous Warner Brothers' movie from 2007 starring Will Smith.
The version of the film that aired in theatres bore scant resemblance to the classic horror/sci-fi classic novel from 1954, although the original ending (now called the "alternate ending") would have connected more with the core of Matheson's story.
The Robert Neville character in I Am Legend is legendary because, one, he is the very last human who has not been infected by the vampire "germ" and, two, because he has been waging a battle against the vampires for years.
One major difference between the novel and the film is that in Matheson's book there are different kinds of vampires, including people who suffer from a type of vampiric infection that can be controlled. Or can it?
Ultimately, Matheson's Neville is both more simple and more complex than the movie's character, although in the novel (and in the movie's alternate ending) Neville's desperately brutal search to find a cure reveals both a glimpse of the monstrous in what we call human and of the humane in what we call monster.