What would you do if you were the last healthy man alive?

I’ve seen the film of ‘I Am Legend’. It was really good; Will Smith gave a great performance as Robert Neville, so on the back of that I thought I would read the book. We’ve all done that before, right?

I was surprised to learn that the book was written in 1954, yet it feels fresh and modern. The troubles that Robert Neville had would apply today, if he were the last healthy human alive. I guess that just goes to show that even after 60 years advancement, if you take away our technology we still have the same basic needs and desires. Shelter, warmth, food, companionship.

Just to point out, the film is NOTHING like the book. It’s so far away from the book that everything you think you know about the story is completely different. I like what the script writers and screenplay writers have done with the film, but I doubt they read any more of the book than the synopsis on the dust jacket. This, however is a good thing. You can read the book and not know what’s coming.

I like how the author has portrayed Robert. He’s just a normal, working class guy. He gets up, goes to work, comes home, loves his family, then a killer virus takes over and kind-of kills everybody except him. SPOILER ALERT: People in 50s America weren’t frightened of zombies. Robert doesn’t know anything about viruses, so he learns about them. He doesn’t have a scientific lab, so he builds one. He becomes something of an expert on the infected ex-humans that are wandering around outside his house trying to kill him; so he also becomes something of an expert in getting rid of them.

Is killing monsters any different from killing people? What if you’re the only person left, and everyone else is a monster, doesn’t that make you the bad guy?

I really enjoyed this book. It delicately balanced the fear, tension, suspense, and longing that Robert Neville felt and I was pleasantly surprised that I hadn’t ruined the book by watching the film years ago. Now that I know the book is 60 years old I can feel it, but not in a bad way. It feels like vintage America; a relaxed feel from a time when food was fresh, cars were chrome plated and weighed 3 tonnes, music came on vinyl, and all the pretty girls wore gingham and baked apple pies, (N.B. May not have happened). But the good thing about vintage is that it can be enjoyed today. Besides, what is modern life if you take away all the technology? We’re only human after all.

Go out and find a copy of I Am Legend, I recommend it. It won’t change your life the way some books do, but at least it will give you a few hours of enjoyment. What can be better than that? If you haven’t seen the film, I’d watch that too, but after you’ve read the book. Then you can laugh along at all the things that are wrong compared to the book.

* * * * O – 4* out of 5. Really good!

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson is available in many formats through different publishers.


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