A Grand Master of horror and suspense, Richard Matheson has won the Hugo, the Edgar, the Spur, and the Writers Guild Awards, among others. He lives in Calabasas, California.
I Am Legend
Robert Neville is the last living man on Earth...but he is not alone. Every other man, woman, and child on Earth has become a vampire, and they are all hungry for Neville's blood.By day, he is the hunter, stalking the sleeping undead through the abandoned ruins of civilization. By night, he barricades himself in his home and prays for dawn.How long can one man survive in a world of vampires?<
Richard Matheson is The New York Times bestselling author of I Am Legend, Hell House, Somewhere in Time, The Incredible Shrinking Man, A Stir of Echoes, The Beardless Warriors, The Path, Seven Steps to Midnight, Now You See It . . . , and What Dreams May Come. A Grand Master of Horror and past winner of the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement, he has also won the Edgar, the Hugo, the Spur, and the Writer's Guild awards.He lives in Calabasas, California.<
"The most clever and riveting vampire novel since Dracula." --Dean Koontz"I think the author who influence me the most as a writer was Richard Matheson. Books like I Am Legend were an inspiration to me." --Stephen King"One of the Ten All-Time Best Novels of Vampirism." --Fangoria<
PART ONE: January 1976
On those cloudy days, Robert Neville was never sure when sunset came, and sometimes they were in the streets before he could get back.
If he had been more analytical, he might have calculated the approximate time of their arrival; but he still used the lifetime habit of judging nightfall by the sky, and on cloudy days that method didn’t work. That was why he chose to stay near the house on those days.
He walked around the house in the dull gray of afternoon, a cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth, trailing threadlike smoke over his shoulder. He checked each window to see if any of the boards had been loosened. After violent attacks, the planks were often split or partially pried off, and he had to replace them completely; a job he hated. Today only one plank was loose. Isn’t that amazing? he thought.
In the back yard he checked the hothouse and the water tank. Sometimes the structure around the tank might be weakened or its rain catchers bent or broken off. Sometimes they would lob rocks over the high fence around the hothouse, and occasionally they would tear through the overhead net and he’d have to replace panes.
Both the tank and the hothouse were undamaged today.
He went to the house for a hammer and nails. As he pushed open the front door, he looked at the distorted reflection of himself in the cracked mirror he’d fastened to the door a month ago. In a few days, jagged pieces of the silver-backed glass would start to fall off. Let ’em fall, he thought. It was the last damned mirror he’d put there; it wasn’t worth it. He’d put garlic there instead. Garlic always worked.
He passed slowly through the dim silence of the living room, turned left into the small hallway, and left again into his bedroom.
Once the room had been warmly decorated, but that was in another time. Now it was a room entirely functional, and since Neville’s bed and bureau took up so little space, he had converted one side of the room into a shop.
A long bench covered almost an entire wall, on its hardwood top a heavy band saw, a wood lathe, an emery wheel, and a vise. Above it, on the wall, were haphazard racks of the tools that Robert Neville used.
He took a hammer from the bench and picked out a few nails from one of the disordered bins. Then he went back outside and nailed the plank fast to the shutter. The unused nails he threw into the rubble next door.
For a while he stood on the front lawn looking up and down the silent length of Cimarron Street. He was a tall man, thirty-six, born of English-German stock, his features undistinguished except for the long, determined mouth and the bright blue of his eyes, which moved now over the charred ruins of the houses on each side of his. He’d burned them down to prevent them from jumping on his roof from the adjacent ones.
After a few minutes he took a long, slow breath and went back into the house. He tossed the hammer on the living-room couch, then lit another cigarette and had his midmorning drink.
Later he forced himself into the kitchen to grind up the five-day accumulation of garbage in the sink. He knew he should burn up the paper plates and utensils too, and dust the furniture and wash out the sinks and the bathtub and toilet, and change the sheets and pillowcase on his bed; but he didn’t feel like it.
For he was a man and he was alone and these things had no importance to him.
* * *
It was almost noon. Robert Neville was in his hothouse collecting a basketful of garlic.
I am Legend is arguably the greatest short horror novel ever written, and its influence on the horror genre has been profound. Stephen King and many other of today's masters rank this book highly in their personal top ten lists of favorites. It is a short novel that can be read in one sitting; it is hard to put down, building in intensity from start to finish. Matheson creates an entirely new type of vampire fiction herein. Transcending the traditional vampire tale, he adds science fiction elements to produce a refreshing new interpretation of Stoker's legend. The most fascinating part of the story is the protagonist's (Richard Neville's) attempts to explain the legendary aspects of the vampire myth in scientific terms. His discovery of a bacterium, which he dubs vampiris, as the true source of vampirism struck me anew reading the novel again after the events of September 11, 2001. Although we only get pieces of the story regarding the outbreak of the vampiric plague, including a reference to bombings, it can easily be seen as the fruits of germ warfare. Neville even conjectures that the Black Death of the Middle Ages was caused by this same vampiris germ, and he extrapolates facts and ideas from that history in his attempts to understand why such defenses as garlic, crosses, and stakes driven into the heart actually are effective against the hordes of undead creatures menacing his own time. He studies academic texts and conducts experiments with the blood of these creatures, which is the means by which he identifies the bacterium. The essence of garlic has no effect on the germ when injected into a blood sample, which initially he is unable to explain, but he later is able to explain garlic's effectiveness. Less scientific tests lead him to conclude that crosses are only effective against "Christian" vampires; the cross has no meaning to for vampires who were once Jews and Moslems, but sacred symbols of those religions, such as the Torah and the Koran, do. All of these scientific tests and speculations are just fascinating.Neville is essentially the last man on earth, and the loneliness of his situation is the central part of the story. Matheson is able to communicate Neville's emotional feelings vividly, making him very real. We gradually acquire the story of the deaths of Neville's wife and daughter, essentially experiencing the pain he goes through when these memories overcome him. We watch him drink himself into a stupor as each night finds him besieged in his fortified house, surrounded by vampires, including his old friend and neighbor, calling for him to come out. We watch him slowly lose his grip on sanity and come very close to giving up. Then, however, we watch him overcome his depression and courageously fight to live in the nightmare world he is trapped in. The scenes with the dog he finds are full of emotion and really gripped this reader. This is Neville's first contact with nonvampiric life, and his attempts to befriend and help the poor creature (at the same time finally finding a companion) touched me greatly and brought tears to my eyes. His eventual discovery of another human being like himself is also powerful and emotional, although to speak more about this aspect of the story is to risk giving something away to the future reader. This is a story of one man overcoming all obstacles and fighting to defend his way of life and his very humanity. The novel deals with the human condition, the essential ingredient to effective horror writing. Neville struggles constantly with his doubts and fears, particularly as he commits acts that he would have condemned as barbarous in the time before the plague. His needs for companionship of any kind offer us a clear image of the inner soul of man. By the end of the story, he does indeed become legend, both in his world and in ours.
This novel, although short, is absolutely outstanding.While this book is advertised as one of the best vampire novels of all time, it is really not about the vampires at all, but about a man. This is the story of what one man can endure, what his limits are, how much he can accept, and what will happen when he goes too far.Yes, there are vampires in the book, and yes, he does hunt them by day, but it's not an action story; the suspense is more pyschological. This is also one of the more different vampire books you will ever read.Somewhat short and written precisely, words are not wasted here, and the beauty and simplicity of the language is part of the appeal that this book holds. Robert Neville is an amazingly real character, and the ending of this book is perfect. While I have not yet read the multiple other stories by Matheson in this volume, I Am Legend alone is worth the cover price.
SO BUY THIS BOOK!
This is where it all started. The pioneering work that later inspired George Romero's "Night Of The Living Dead" and Stephen King's "Salem's Lot" and every other tale of a normal human being fighting against the odds in a world gone mad with the hungry hordes of the undead.
Matheson, a TV writer (most notable work, "The Twilight Zone"), places us in a world where a mysterious virus has not only killed off virtually ever other man, woman and child but causes them to return as zombielike vampires intent on only one thing... to drain the blood of the living. Matheson's hero holds up in his old family home, now a battered fortress assaulted nightly by what were once his friends and neighbors and who have become the walking dead intent on taking hold and devouring him. He, in turn, waits until the morning light and searches out there hiding places in order to destroy the revenants when they are at their most vulnerable. A one man army, who is patiently, skillfully ridding his world of this vermin.
Fortunately, in one of his sweeps he finds that there is another who is doing the same thing. He is not alone in the world afterall.
Unfortunately, this other wants to destroy him as well.
Matheson wrote a thinking man's horror novel. He touches on that feeling of alienation and loneliness that pervades so much of our modern world. A world that places us as pawns, used (and often victimised) by the science and technologies of our own creation. However, Matheson also inspires in the reader a feeling of hope and fighting back even if the odds are staggeringly against us. He appeals to the survivalist instincts that every healthy, normal man and woman possess. He builds the anger in us to strike back and overcome the menace to our existence.
Two movies made were based on "I Am Legend": "The Last Man On Earth", starring Vincent Price and the classic, "Omega Man", starring Charleton Heston. Neither of these came close to the quality of this novel. This book is essential reading and keeping for every horror fan, especially us zombie fanatics. Now go order this book!
"The most clever and riveting vampire novel since Dracula." Dean Koontz"I think the author who influence me the most as a writer was Richard Matheson. Books like I Am Legend were an inspiration to me." Stephen King"One of the Ten AllTime Best Novels of Vampirism."