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Book Title: I Am Legend|
The author of the book: Richard Matheson
Date of issue: January 21st 1999
ISBN 13: 9781857988093
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 885 KB
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Reader ratings: 7.4
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"I am legend". These words make me shudder. But if you have only seen that Will Smith movie that went 180 degrees on the book's message, the soul-crushing impact of these words will be lost on you.
That makes me sad...
To quote Stephen King, "I think the author who influenced me the most as a writer was Richard Matheson." This was enough of a recommendation for me to go and dig up this book. And it's great. (view spoiler)["Full circle. A new terror born in death, a new superstition entering the unassailable fortress of forever. I am legend.” (hide spoiler)] Robert Neville, as you may already know from the countless cinematic adaptations of the story, seems to be a sole survivor of a vampirism-like pandemic. (The old-fashioned burn-in-the-sunlight stake-through-the-heart vampirism, none of that newfangled emo sparkliness.) Neville stakes vampires by day, and researches the cause of the plague in his spare time. The long segments of the story are devoted to the relentless monotony of his scientific pursuit of the vampirism mystery - which he does figure out, by the way. And it's quite neat.
We witness the years of deep depression, alcoholism, and the suffocating isolation, loneliness and despair. Then one day he meets Ruth who may be another survivor of the pandemic. And that's where any similarities to the movie stop, and the story becomes less of a lone-hero-tale and more of the soul-crushing-hopeless-revelation-tale. (view spoiler)["And suddenly he thought, I'm the abnormal one now. Normalcy was a majority concept, the standard of many and not the standard of just one man." (hide spoiler)] The story of the lone righteous hero, the brave vampire hunter has a sure guaranteed readers' appeal (I, for instance, adore Stephen King's Salem's Lot). Matheson, however, brilliantly decides to take the road less traveled and turns the legend on its head. He introduces an unexpected perspective that forces the protagonist and the reader look at things in a new - and shocking - light. After all, the line between a hero and a horror is very thin, and usually very subjectively drawn.
This is not a traditional vampire story in any shape or form. There is no supernatural element - unless you think so of germs. Instead it involves evolution - of the hero and the monsters alike, and not in the ways that are comforting to the reader. The horror lies in its unsettling revelations about the human nature. It is also a story in which happy ending is impossible by default - which Hollywood, of course, promptly 'fixes'. At least Will Smith got a blockbuster out of the butchered story.
Given the number of the cinematic adaptations of this book, it continues to fascinate Hollywood. I'm just waiting for the day when they make one that actually captures the intended impact of Matheson's story.
The writing is a bit dry, the science sections drag on a bit, and the protagonist is rather unlikable, but I forgive all this for the punch-in-the-gut impact the story had on me. 4 stars.
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Read information about the authorBorn in Allendale, New Jersey to Norwegian immigrant parents, Matheson was raised in Brooklyn and graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School in 1943. He then entered the military and spent World War II as an infantry soldier. In 1949 he earned his bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and moved to California in 1951. He married in 1952 and has four children, three of whom (Chris, Richard Christian, and Ali Matheson) are writers of fiction and screenplays.
His first short story, "Born of Man and Woman," appeared in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1950. The tale of a monstrous child chained in its parents' cellar, it was told in the first person as the creature's diary (in poignantly non-idiomatic English) and immediately made Matheson famous. Between 1950 and 1971, Matheson produced dozens of stories, frequently blending elements of the science fiction, horror and fantasy genres.
Several of his stories, like "Third from the Sun" (1950), "Deadline" (1959) and "Button, Button" (1970) are simple sketches with twist endings; others, like "Trespass" (1953), "Being" (1954) and "Mute" (1962) explore their characters' dilemmas over twenty or thirty pages. Some tales, such as "The Funeral" (1955) and "The Doll that Does Everything" (1954) incorporate zany satirical humour at the expense of genre clichés, and are written in an hysterically overblown prose very different from Matheson's usual pared-down style. Others, like "The Test" (1954) and "Steel" (1956), portray the moral and physical struggles of ordinary people, rather than the then nearly ubiquitous scientists and superheroes, in situations which are at once futuristic and everyday. Still others, such as "Mad House" (1953), "The Curious Child" (1954) and perhaps most famously, "Duel" (1971) are tales of paranoia, in which the everyday environment of the present day becomes inexplicably alien or threatening.
He wrote a number of episodes for the American TV series The Twilight Zone, including "Steel," mentioned above and the famous "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet"; adapted the works of Edgar Allan Poe for Roger Corman and Dennis Wheatley's The Devil Rides Out for Hammer Films; and scripted Steven Spielberg's first feature, the TV movie Duel, from his own short story. He also contributed a number of scripts to the Warner Brothers western series "The Lawman" between 1958 and 1962. In 1973, Matheson earned an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for his teleplay for The Night Stalker, one of two TV movies written by Matheson that preceded the series Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Matheson also wrote the screenplay for Fanatic (US title: Die! Die! My Darling!) starring Talullah Bankhead and Stefanie Powers.
Novels include The Shrinking Man (filmed as The Incredible Shrinking Man, again from Matheson's own screenplay), and a science fiction vampire novel, I Am Legend, which has been filmed three times under the titles The Omega Man and The Last Man on Earth and once under the original title. Other Matheson novels turned into notable films include What Dreams May Come, Stir of Echoes, Bid Time Return (as Somewhere in Time), and Hell House (as The Legend of Hell House) and the aforementioned Duel, the last three adapted and scripted by Matheson himself. Three of his short stories were filmed together as Trilogy of Terror, including "Prey" with its famous Zuni warrior doll.
In 1960, Matheson published The Beardless Warriors, a nonfantastic, autobiographical novel about teenage American soldiers in World War II.
He died at his home on June 23, 2013, at the age of 87
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