I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. Or, Individualism in the Apocalypse

I am Legend
Recommended for: fans of classic apocalypse
Read on August 15, 2013
★   ★   ★

There are some excellent reviews out there. I know I was complaining about sqeeing and gifs recently, but I can’t help but think a classic book like this could use a little modern reviewing.



I’m a little mixed in my reading reactions to a novella that feels more like a self-conscious allegorical tale than truly innovative storytelling. The short, choppy prose suited the narrator, but gave a more limited ambiance to the setting. Given the protagonist Neville’s relatively easy ability in moving around the world (seems to take a little siphoned gas and he’s good to go), I felt like it was an incomplete story that left me with many questions about the world. I do appreciate the sophisticated way Neville’s personal history is blended in to the current experience, an impressive contrast to many writers who feel the need for long expository paragraphs, but I would have liked more. The limited description leaves something lacking, perhaps the extent of the devastation. Is it enough that Neville feels isolated? Do we need the steps of how he got there? What does ‘humanity’ mean if you are the only human? Why try to survive? I’m not sure and as Neville poses these questions, I found myself wondering what he had done to find other survivors, the timeline of catastrophe, the extent of the world breakdown. The spare depiction make me feel like it was more of a metaphorical tale, a study in the psychology of the individual and his coping with isolation and meaning without context of society. In this respect, the movie was more able to give the visual sense of complete loneliness and the frustration of working for a potentially futile goal.

It was also hard to have sympathy for Neville. Truly an Everyman, he drowned his emotion in alcohol as often as he attempted to control circumstance. I didn’t admire or respect him; he was dogged but not creative or thoughtful. The lapses into existential questioning only reinforced the emotional distance.

The ending was a surprise; perhaps more likeable than that of the movie, but also more self-conscious and created. There wasn’t much build to the ending; there was very little sense of the “types” of vampires through the story–I had more of a sense of Neville’s drinking preferences than the vampires. Still, it is a classic, so I’m glad I took the time to read it, but it feels a little too much like reading The Metamorphosis for my taste.

About thebookgator

avid reader and Goodreads reviewer looking for a home.
This entry was posted in Apocalypse & dystopia, Book reviews and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. Or, Individualism in the Apocalypse

  1. europaoutlaw says:

    Great post. The thought of Robert being the boogie man to the vampires instead of the other way round is brilliant. I enjoyed the film but I see it as a different thing altogether.

  2. Pingback: Surviving the Evacuation: London (book 1) by Frank Tayell | book reviews forevermore

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