"Come out Neville,"(Matheson 5).
A little over a week ago, I reviewed the film "The Last Man on The Earth," and it was the first of many movies to be inspired by I Am Legend. This 1954 classic tells the story of a man named Robert Neville's years of survival in a mid 1970's vampire apocalypse. The book really gives everything a reader could possibly want including; extremely emotional scenes, an interesting plot, beautiful writing by author Richard Matheson, and a feeling of authenticity that is very rare in the genre.
As the novel begins, we meet Robert Neville, and he is a loner in the society. A plague has taken over, and everyone that had once surrounded him became vampires. Robert has taken matters into his own hands, and he spends his days hunting the monsters, and researching to find out more about how they exist. Throughout the entire novel, the reader sees Robert's personal battles in his life, and many events that really change his outlook on the world.
The first thing that this book did very well was the characterization of Robert Neville, because he is the ultimate antihero. As a person, he has so many demons in his life, whether they are depression or alcoholism. Along with portraying this problems in his life, we also get a glimpse of him battling them so he can be free. One of the main battles that Robert has is trying to forget the past, because he knows that remembering the bad events really makes his depression worse. A really awesome line that was written to show that the past can't be forgotten was, "And he’d thought the past was dead. How long did it take for a past to die,"(83). This line really haunted me when I read it, because it almost made it seem like Neville would never be able to escape the hell that he was in. It was absolutely perfect to have the character like this, because it makes the storyline so much more realistic and gritty. Even though Neville has this dark side, one also sees a very soft and insecure man later in the novel. It is shown that he really just wanted someone or something to be with him in these hard times. As a result, the two times this happens for him really mark a huge change in his personality.
The first time that we get to see a love come into Robert's life is his relationship with the dog he finds. The entire chapter 13 is absolutely brilliant, because it goes from the animal running away from Robert to their very close but short friendship. The line that really hit me the hardest in this part was right before the end of the puppy's life, and Matheson wrote, "The dog looked up at him with its dulled, sick eyes and then its tongue faltered out and licked roughly and moistly across the palm of Neville’s hand. Something broke in Neville’s throat. He sat there silently while tears ran slowly down his cheeks,"(60). This quote showed how much Robert really loved the dog, and how the entire situation was just terrible for him. Honestly for myself, this was one of the saddest scenes, because the dog was innocent, and really loved Robert too, but was ruined by the sickness.
The second time this happens to Robert is with a woman named Ruth. The addition of Ruth as a character was absolutely essential for the book, because she really marked the point of where Robert could get rid of his darknesses, because he was so in love with her. Even though he started off not trusting her at all, his thoughts end up trading to the point where he never wants her to leave him. You can really tell this by his coddling nature that he began to have, because the only thing he had on his mind was protecting her.
The next thing that I really liked about this novel was Matheson's writing style. His way of words is very simple, yet beautiful and full of imagery at the same time. Never before have I ever felt like I was watching a movie while reading more than in this experience. Whether it is the sounds he talks about, or the movements being made, everything is crystal clear for the mind, and it makes things so much more enjoyable for the audience.
Something that made this book stand out from many others in the vampire genre is that the main character Neville reveals many facts about the mutants from extensive research he did on them during the novel. He gives hypothesizes about garlic, crosses, and how the humans become vampires in the first place. I really found this to be intriguing, because it filled in every hole that could possibly been left open, and it made the possibility of vampires going around in real life so much more convincing.
As I read through the story, I really saw that Matheson was trying to make a criticism of society at the time. He did this with many lines showing how brutal of a civilization we had become. The first quote that really showed this was, "Such thoughts were a hideous testimony to the world he had accepted; a world in which murder was easier than hope,"(77). This line put chills through my whole body, because it is really so true to how a lot of people are in our world. Everything can be done with peace, yet so many people use murder as an easy way out, and they don't even think of the consequences they will face for it. The second quote that blatantly displayed this was, "He tried to believe that the men were forced into what they were doing, but shock brought terrible doubt,"(88). This one was also disturbingly true, because in our world we really do have the crazy people that take pleasure in killing, in their own free world. I think it was a great idea that Matheson brought these themes into the story, because rather than just being a scifi-horror novel, there is also a lot of reality in it too.
The ending of the novel really gave everything that a reader could want, and it didn't leave anything hanging at all. It was very sad, yet triumphant at the same time. I honestly had to fight back tears as I read, because it hit every vulnerability that a person could have, and it was just done so perfectly. Personally, I see it to be one of the greatest book endings in our history.
Every fan of literature should read this book, because it will work for everyone regardless of genre. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and it will keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time. This was definitely the finest piece of literature I have read thus far, and it cannot be missed.
Matheson, Richard. I Am Legend. New York: ORB, 1995. Print.