Friday, January 28, 2011

# 7 - I Am Legend (And Other Short Stories) by Richard MAtheson

That is an one ugly book cover. More so considering how much i was enraged, ENRAGED!, I tell you, when I realized how much they changed the ending of the film. It was, however, the cheapest copy I could find and I was really impatient to find out what the difference between the book and the movie was. So, I had to make do with Will Smith.

I saw the movie before I read the book and I actually quite enjoyed the movie. But that was before I knew that the book was really quite awesome. I mean, the movie was ok and all, but why didn't they just make another movie completely not based on the book? Changing the ending and even some details (like there are dead vampires and alive vampires, and that hello! they are sentient!) completely change the essence of the book.

Enough ranting about the adaptation and on to the book itself. It was good. Neville is the last man left on earth. All the other have been infected by a horrible disease that turns them into bloodsucking monsters. The first part was basically just about how Neville lived his daily life, in the face of vampire apocalypse. Surviving and protecting himself. It also tells his past, which is heartbreaking, through flashbacks. We stay with Neville as he goes through depression and excessive drinking (who wouldn't be driven to drink when faced with a nightly onslaught of scary-ass vampires) and eventually just deals. He tries to learn all he can about the origin of the plague and tries to find a cure. In the day, when the vampires are helpless, he goes out and systematically kills all that he can find.

All the "action" happens at the last third of the book when he finds a seemingly uninfected woman and takes her in. Eventually, he starts to suspect that she is infected, and that part for me was really thrilling. Like Neville, I constantly wavered between believing she was normal and thinking she was infected. And this propels the story until the end when Neville, in the final seconds of his life, realizes that he is legend.

The book, in making the vampires sentient creatures, elevated the book from being just a regular zombie apocalypse movie (like the movie version) and presents some thought provoking ideas on how human beings evolve and adopt. In having Neville as a SOLE survivor of the human race, it presents a compelling portrait of loneliness. Being truly alone.

So I gathered from research (wiki. shush.) that this book was the first time that vampirism was "explained" through science. That is, that it had a scientific, instead of a supernatural cause. It is also, I guess because of the whole wiping out humans stuff, the inspiration for modern zombie films. However, I think it is totally different from most zombie films, as I already mentioned. The fact that the monsters were sentient and are trying to build a new society is totally different from the zombies who just want to eat everybody.

Oh, there were other short stories included in this book, thus making it elegible for the cannonball read. The stories were ok, some twisty and scary, some were forgettable. Ultimately, none reached the depth Matheson reached in I Am Legend.

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