I Am Legend

Reviewed: November 7, 2007
By: Richard Matheson
Publisher: Tor Books
320 pages, $17.25

Worth mentioning is this rerelease of Richard Matheson’s classic reverse vampire novel, I Am Legend. First published in 1954, and adapted for film as The Last Man on Earth (starring Vincent Price) and The Omega Man (starring Charleton Heston), this book is now being reissued to tie in with the new Will Smith vehicle, due out next month.

In this novel Robert Neville becomes one of the few humans on earth not to be infected by a pandemic which causes normal people to become vampires if it progresses to its full blown form. Neville becomes a latter day Van Helsing, slaughtering the undead by day, not realizing that the new humans have discovered a way to resist the full effects of the disease. While some do become vampiric, most do not, and Neville has been killing people who are primarily afflicted with an extreme phototropic pathology and an allergy to garlic.

Unknown to himself, it is Neville who has become the monster, hence the title.

I’m hoping the producers didn’t mess up the story this time, The Price version was pretty good, but it’s dated now. The Heston version changed the story too much and was as overblown as Heston’s other forays into science fiction.

This book, however, is a really good read. Matheson, along with Shirley Jackson, was a tremendous influence on almost everyone writing horror fiction today.