Friday, September 24, 2010

Confusing Vampire/Zombie Novel Just Kinda Sucks

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

It all starts with a deadly virus, a plague that storms through town, killing everyone. Then, it brings them back. Now, herds of vampiric zombies roam the streets, hunting for fresh blood. As far as Robert Neville knows, he's the only warm-blooded creature left in L.A., probably the sole survivor in all of California, maybe the entire world. He spends the daylight hours hunting the undead, fortifying his home against their nightly attacks, and combing the silent library for ideas on how to save what's left of the world. At night, he barricades himself inside his house, numbs his mind with liquor, and prays for the dawn. Even when there's nothing left to live for, Robert refuses to let the monsters take him. He may not win this war, but he refuses to give up.

Robert's been alone for so long that when he spies a living woman darting down the street, he can barely coax his voice into shouting. Is it possible that he's not the only human left on Earth? Can Ruth help him save their world? Or is she the harbinger of a whole new kind of evil? Robert's about to find out ...
With an army of bloodthirsty zombies intent on devouring the last human on the planet, I Am Legend by Richard Matheson has the makings of a horror masterpiece. Published in 1954, it was influential in popularizing the idea of a disease-induced apocalypse. That concept, coupled with the idea of zombies taking over the world, makes for an intense and affecting story. Unfortunately, the main character makes a rather abrupt (yet somewhat ambigious) exit before his story has the chance to reach anything resembling a climax. What follows is a weird group of unconnected, macabre little tales that could have been penned by the legendary Stephen King. Although each is shivery in its own right, I kept waiting for the vignettes to tie back into the main story. Never happened. I spent the whole second half of the book wondering if I was missing some big, symbolic statement or if a bewildered editor somewhere had mistakenly glued together two different books. I'm still not sure. Matheson, surely, had a reason for finishing I Am Legend the way he did, but if there's some big message here, it's way too subtle for me. I don't get it. At all.

If you liked the 2007 film adaptation of I Am Legend starring Will Smith, then I suggest sticking to the first half of the novel and dreaming up your own ending. Matheson's, quite frankly, sucks (pun intended).
Grade: C-

If this were a movie (and it is!), it would be rated: R for strong language, gore, and a small amount of sexual content

To the FTC, with love: Another library fine find

5 comments:

  1. I just finished this one and enjoyed the suspense of it. I didn't even read the short stories following though. I just figured they were entirely separate because it looks like they were written at many different times. I do want to see the movie again though. It scared me but I loved it!

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  2. Did you do the same thing I did when I reached the end of the main story? I turned the page to continue, saw that is was a new story and said, "Wait... WHAT? THAT'S IT?!" I completely agree with your review of this book. Movie- awesome, book- meh.

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  3. I enjoyed the movie as well, but havent read the book. I've thought about it, but havent gotten around to it yet. Hmmmm. I know tons of movies are based on books, Once I watch a movie if I like it, I wait a few years, then read the book, so that way the whole vision of the movie has had time to leave the recent memory.

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  4. Oh! That's weird about the short stories. Hm.

    The movie made me cry so I don't think I'll read the book, but if I ever do now I'll know what to expect, at least!

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  5. Shelley - You're smart! I should have done that. I kept waiting for the stories to connect back to the main story and they just ... didn't.

    I liked the movie, too.

    Pam - YES! That was my EXACT reaction.

    PW - Personally, I'd skip the book. The movie does justice to the story, even though it's been awhile since I watched it.

    Anastasia - Really weird. Like I said, skip the book, watch the movie!

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