Fond of keeping the blood curdling throughout the month of October, I was looking for only the best of the spine-tinglers, the elite nightmare elicitors, the ones that scare the bejesus out of you and have you even welcoming your dog onto your clean bedspread for the night. While there are some awfully good reads out there, I harkened back to one that I read in 1975 (when I was 5 yrs. old)--one of only 3 books that has truly ever creeped me out (one being The Exorcist and the other scares me too much to mention!). And, it is a pedigreed chiller, claimed by the King himself to be his favorite child...Salem's Lot. He even dedicated this one to his daughter. *Do not think of the terrible mini-series...it did not do this one justice.
Dracula, Count Orlok (Nosferatu), and Mr. Barlow...the aristocracy of vampires (Lestat was just too well behaved). There is something undeniably exclusive to Dracula - despite all the gore clever authors can think up, or all the modern diabolical twists and turns -- Count Dracula still reigns supreme as the black-hearted grandaddy of them all. King takes Stoker's lore of Dracula, revives it, and brings it out of the dank castle cellars of Transylvania to a small town in modern Maine (of course--but it could be anywhere, USA) as Mr. Barlow. There are no new evolved vampirical powers, just the original undiluted horror of the Vampire. [*Note" On this most recent recording, the author gives a brief introduction for the story, explaining how his idea evolved into the book--really fun.]
The battle is between pure good and absolute evil -- and more importantly, convincing townfolk that there is a vampire in town - an actual bloodsucking demon of the night - before they themselves are recruited to this legion of the undead. The 1970's rural town is wonderfully depicted, full of the kind of hay-seed characters, and that small town party-line feeling King is known for creating so richly. His personal bone-to-pick with small towns comes through loud and clear as he devours the residents without mercy, relishing in extinguishing the abusers, gossipers, and Salem's Lot ne'er-do-wells. The narrator enriches the story with the appropriate chills...if you pardon his un-even delivery of Mr.Barlow's dialect (3.5*).
For fans of the good-ol' garlic-hating, crucifix-fearing, coffin-dwelling, sun-dreading vampire...dig this one out and brush off the dust. It holds up perfectly and deserves to be held in equal esteem with the best of the worst vamps and their stories. You don't need my recommendation; if Stephen King -- the man who has defined what goes bump in the night -- says this is his personal favorite out of his own novels, you know it's got to be wonderfully deliciously dreadful.
[*Disclaimer: I'm not a fan of abundant gore, and haven't read much of Koontz or Barker!]
I enjoyed every aspect of this brief, well produced audible version of I Am Legend, (and especially recommend if you can pick it up when Audible has one of its special offers). Dean's narration made the listen as animated as a Columbia Broadcasting System radio presentation ala Orson Wells doing H.G. Well's War of the Worlds.
Bless Matheson for bringing us the concept of a vampire apocalypse! Because of his imagination and talent, so many of Matheson's books and stories were translated to movies and TV. Loved, loved, reading the reviews and opinions about the book vs. the multiple movie versions of I Am Legend. Either I am not so opinionated, or just easily entertained, because I thought all the book to movie interpretations were great fun ... from the Vincent Price version (which embarrassed author/screenwriter Matheson resulting in him using a pseudo-name in the end credits aka *Logan Swanson*); especially the very campy Omega Man, the vampires replaced with the *Family* of albino mutants [so bad it was good]; and finally to Will Smith's intellectualized NY version with the *Darkseekers*. As fun or as creepy, none of those versions equal the book and it's emphasis on the psychological impact of being alone.
Why read this book when we know the story almost ad nauseam - in hundreds of incarnations? Because 'MATHESON is legend'. Give a quick look at his Wiki profile.... The Legend of Hell House, What Dreams May Come, Somewhere in Time, A Stir of Echoes, I Am Legend, Steel, Duel (yes directed by Spielberg), The Night Stalker, Twilight Zone episodes (including intro and closing every show), Star Trek episodes. If you are still unconvinced of his genius - remember the Zuni fetish doll that chased Karen Black around her NY apartment with a carving knife?....Matheson's creation! And the piece de resistance....Nightmare at 20,000 Feet -- William Shatner looking out the window from his airline seat at a gremlin tearing the steel and wire cables from a rear jet engine. I think I'd rather see vampires at my door.
It's not so much an issue of *holding up to time* as to how many times it has been done; but read with the knowledge that this was the first...wow. What a legacy--what a legend!
Hearing the final words, "Audible hopes you enjoyed.." it's hard to resist vigorously clapping your hands together and jumping to your feet to whoop out a "Bravo!" While it looks like some reviewers are more familiar with the particulars of each narrator, I must be less fussy; I thought it was a perfect cast that produced a dark gothic atmosphere that Stoker would call worthy of this masterpiece.
The story is longer than I thought it would be, the flowery speech style of the Victorian era no doubt adding to the length of the journals/diaries of each articulate character, that comprise the tale -- a style that, if you are unprepared for, may be too verbose to your liking (but authentic to the time--think Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, Oscar Wilde, William Butler Yeats). Where one during that period might say:
"Dear Madam, by God, your neck! May perhaps I suggest more wreaths of the garlic flowers to be festooned around your lovely neck to prohibit a further attack from this most vile blood-sucking fiendish creature of the night which has befallen upon you most unfairly, dear sweet lady?"
We today, 100 years later, might say:
"Huh, vampire bite. Want some garlic (was he sparkly)?"
You can see how this could take up some pages. But the profuse Victorian vernacular combined with the fine reading puts you in the necessary frame of mind -- where a dark red-eyed character in a cape could creep around a deteriorating castle, summon wolves from the fog, and morph into a bat flapping against a pane of glass. (It was a little amusing listening to the breathy and fragile Lucy and Mina...considering the time frame in which this was written. While Stoker had them helplessly swooning away, across the pond, Susan B. Anthony was gathering her own minions.)
Bram Stoker truly affected history with this book -- Audible's production was a great homage to a literary icon as well as a fun engaging production, well worth the purchase.