I Am Legend – Richard Matheson

by Daniel O'hEidhin

I Am Legend is one of those books that everyone should devote a couple of days to reading. No man is an island, but Robert Neville sure as hell feels like one at times in Richard Matheson’s masterpiece.

It’s rare to find such a good book clocking in at the 40,000 words mark. I usually find stories that length too slow to begin, and too quick to finish. Matheson gauges the pace just right. There are sweet f*ck all other characters in the work, Neville’s wife, a dog and an odd person or two fill the entire cast, but those that are elaborated on are perfectly crafted. I have a particular softspot for a neighbour vampire who gives the story a nice sense of the familiar. Of homeliness. Despite being terrifying, he is a pillar of normalcy (yes, I just used that word).

Which is the overwhelming nature of the book. Despite being completely alone, surrounded by ravenously hungry neck biters, Neville adjusts to his new condition with aplomb. Not just surviving, but almost thriving. Ok, maybe thriving is an exaggeration. He deals with crippling loneliness and savage internal monologues aplenty, but his personal evolution to suit the needs of this new empty world speaks volumes for humanity. It also seems to suggest that we are our own worst enemy, and internal demons are far deadlier than the external.

Anyway, it’ll say different things to different folks. In short it’s a great read, good suspense, a nice bit of mystery, and a satisfying conclusion. It won’t change your life, but it’s good craic, which might not be what Matheson intended, but after three decades of sh*t vampire and zombie themed works they’re hard not to read lightly.

It’s one man’s struggle against a new world, and himself. And there’s vampire zombies.