I Am Legend

I have a ton to do today so this must be quick. But I have to take a moment to express what a joy it is to suddenly discover the horror author, Richard Matheson (he’s wider than that but I’m going to read all his horror first if a I can). His novel, I Am Legend was just amazing. It was the kind of thing where you realize most of the vampire fiction you read before was completely second-hand and this was the source that inspired all those wannabe imitators.

I read this novella because I had seen the movie I Am Legend and had been incredibly impressed with it.  One person told me that it wasn’t as good as the book, but I have to assume that is because he wanted the movie to be a copy of the book.  It isn’t.  It is very much indebted to the book but it is a different story.  In fact, one of the great experiences involved in reading the book second was realizing what brilliant decisions the writers had made to use different situations and actions and history to get some of the same emotional stress.

I don’t want to give either story away.  One difference is that the book is about vampires while the movie is about zombies, though the zombies have some vampire features that make more sense once you learn about the book as a source.

One of the things that the movie does, which blew my mind, is show there is more going on than what the protagonist sees, without ever bothering to explain to you what exactly is happening.  To avoid spoilers, when you see the movie and hear the protagonist say that the zombies have lost their last bit of humanity, ask yourself if what he is describing is not showing exactly the opposite.  As it turns out, this element came from the book, but it is simply used to add complexity rather than as a plot issue that must be resolved.  I think it was brilliant.

I have to admit, I didn’t like the end (as in the very last page) of the novella.  I wish Matheson had written part two (which would have been pretty easy to do, in my opinion) and made it into a complete novel.  Also the movie is very much a Christian story with a theodicy (when the camera focuses on graffiti at the beginning, pay attention) and a protagonist who had real faith (before he lost it).  The original novella is much more naturalistic and unbelieving.

They are both amazing though, and I highly recommend them both.

4 thoughts on “I Am Legend

  1. Andy Dollahite

    My understanding was that the movie completely inverted who the “good guys” were? Have I been previously misled

    Reply
  2. Anonymous

    Mark,

    right on. Both are outstanding. The *fast* zombies in the movie are the scariest zombies ever.

    Reply

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