Saturday, August 24, 2019

I Am Legend


The inspiration for the monochrome movie The Last Man on Earth, the Charlton Heston vehicle The Omega Man, and the film of the same name starring Will Smith, I Am Legend, despite its meager length, is inarguably author Richard Matheson’s magnum opus, opening with protagonist Robert Neville preparing a meal for himself, not to mention garlic and stakes to repel the vampiric beings that populate the planet due to a widespread plague. Neville is regularly taunted by one of the vampires, Ben Cortman, originally an old friend, and drives through post-doomsday California, mourning his daughter Kathy.

Neville visits the tomb of his wife Virginia, having an encounter with vampires there, and returns to his home in Gardena where, due to his leaving his home’s garage unsecured, he has to deter more of the creatures and remake his abode. The alleged last man on Earth regularly has flashbacks of his wife and daughter, with talk of mutating bugs and the spread of disease that ultimately incite the vampiric pandemic. Neville believes that blood holds the key to stopping the plague, discovering the vampirism to be bacterial, and performing experiments involving things such as exposing vampiric blood to garlic.

The scientist in one instance bonds with a dog that survived the worldwide epidemic, and discovers the possibility that there might be other humans left in the world. The final chapters provide twists with hints of social commentary, including the revelation of the meaning of the novella’s title. Overall, I found it a good short novel, although it’s somewhat anachronistic given its setting in the 1970s, and one might find difficult discerning flashbacks from “present” passages. Being autistic, as well, I also somewhat sympathize with the themes of the story presented in the latter sections, and would recommend the story to those who can look past the anachronisms.

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