I Am Legend

Several weeks ago, a friend of mine recommended a horror author I’d managed to never hear of, Richard Matheson. I found a copy of A Stir of Echoes in my local Half Price Books, and I later read it all in one afternoon, while I was stuck at home watching the floor guy take up all of my downstairs linoleum. I’d seen the movie, and the book was largely the same, but just different enough to keep the mystery in real doubt all the way through. In any case, I enjoyed myself. Part of it was reading a book in one day, something I haven’t done in, well, I sincerely cannot remember how long.

In any case, I finally got to a better stocked HPB and found several more of his books, mostly in Penguin-sized short story collections. The one I’d been looking the most forward too was I Am Legend, the story of the last man alive in a world full of vampires. As it happens, the copy I got is about half that, and about half several more short stories, which I have yet to read.

Good story, though. In addition to Matheson’s drive to find a scientific explanation for every vampire characteristic, he explores themes of isolation in familiar but well-written ways and themes of identity in ways that I hadn’t considered before. What makes a man good? What makes a vampire bad? Is it possible to cross those lines? Is it desirable to?

I know that I just said it was cool to read a book in a day (and I could have done with this one, although I did not), but the one weakness I found was that I was never able to get all the way into the head of the main character. The whole story was from his point of view, and I didn’t really feel like I knew him any better by the end than I did in the first ten pages. He was an excellent means to Matheson’s multiple ends, but I’m not convinced he was more than that. I actually felt more for the three main ancillary characters than I did for Robert Neville or his (expired, at the opening of the story) family.

For now, though, I have all those short stories left to read.

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