©1954, 1982 by Richard Matheson; (P)2007 Blackstone Audio Inc.
"One of the ten all-time best novels of vampirism." (Fangoria)
"The most clever and riveting vampire novel since Dracula." (Dean Koontz)
"I think the author who influenced me most as a writer was Richard Matheson. Books like I Am Legend were an inspiration to me." (Stephen King)
Like a lot of reviewers, I saw the movie before I ever heard of the book. In fact, I decided to read the book because I was hoping for some clarification about some concepts and ideas that the movie hinted at but didn't explain.
Rather than reading it, I bought it on Audible and let somebody else read it to me. From the start I knew this book was not going to be the movie. Neville was definitely not the same man in the book that Will Smith portrayed in the movie. A lot of the questions raised by the movie were not answered, though many others were.
I liked that Neville wasn't some super-hero action star in the book. He was a normal guy just trying to survive in a world that didn't want or need him anymore. He was intelligent and given to learning, but he was also very dark, depressed and lonely. I pictured a Steve Buscemi in the book far more than a Will Smith.
Rather than saying if you liked the movie you won't like the book, I'd rather say that if you liked the movie, you may also like the book, just don't expect it to be the same story. The movie is only very loosely based on the book.
One more thing, when I saw the movie I thought "wow, the infected people are kind of vampiric", but they never used the word vampire, rather calling them "dark-seekers". The book was very prolific in the use of the word vampire, and I loved the history of vampirism as explained in the book much much more than the reasons given (well, sort of given) in the movie.
Summary: Great fiction, great character development. Sometimes melodramatic narration (to be expected in an audio-only reading). Got a little long-winded and obscure during some of the exposition around the disease, and yet still intriguing to the curious mind. Over all, I enjoyed it and would recommend it to anybody who can handle the darkness of a post-apocalyptic world where the protagonist is not an action-hero superstar!
This is really a fantastic book. None of the movies based on it really do it justice. This is a very intimate telling of one man's experience with the end of civilization as he knows it. Movie adaptations always have to add more action or add new elements. What makes this novel so remarkable and memorable, however, is just how intimate the story telling is and how much I find myself caring about Robert Neville's character.
It's particularly remarkable to me how well this story holds up considering it was written in 1954. It is written in such a way as to have very, very few aspects that date the story. It is just as easy to visualize the story as happening today as I believe it would have been 50 or 60 years ago.
It is, in my opinion, a very intelligent and smartly written book and I'd recommend it wholeheartedly. The narrator is a perfect match for the material as well! I'd give it more stars if I could!
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!
No Plot Spoilers.
The brilliance of this work has left me nearly without words. I listened to it in essentially one sitting, taking a brief break to cook dinner. A genre defining novella that can clearly be considered the Godparent of many *many* works.
Like all great works, it operates on two levels; one as a horror/sci-fi story, the other as a parable. Mathewson delivers stunningly on both levels. Dean is fantastic with his narration.
I wish audible had an extra star that one could activate for truly phenomenal books- this is the second one I would grant such a rating to.
Absolutely essential listen.
I bought Matheson's masterpiece as a young teenager in the early 60s, on a family vacation trip.. sat on a deserted beach, alone, and read it cover-to-cover.. been waiting for an audio version for eons.. and grabbed Audible's the other day.. the narration is FANtastic, and of course, 100% true to the book, unlike the three filmed versions.. the 50s low-budget Vincent Price film, "The Last Man on Earth" is probably the truest to the book.. the 70s "Omega Man" with Charlton Heston is a joke.. the 2007 correctly-titled Will Smith version isn't bad, but so far from Matheson's original work as to almost be an entirely different character and story, especially the ending.. but I suppose the producers giving it the usual Hollywood mega-million $ CGI-laden, "blowin' up a lot of stuff" treatment for contemporary movie audiences with the attention span of a gnat was not unexpected.. but transmogrifying Robert Neville from a suburan El Lay everyman trying to do his best to maintain his sanity and survive alone in an insane world, to a high-ranking military Doctor in NYC made NO sense to me at all.. the newest film removed the whole ambience of the book, radically changed / ripped out / added characters.. it's just not Matheson's original.. so this novella still has never been properly filmed to stay true to the book, and probably never will be..
As a five hour plus audio book, I found it very tough to pause / bookmark and come back to it later.. I wanted to listen to it all the way through.. it did not disappoint except in one small (?) aspect.. had I produced it, I would have used a female narrator to read Ruth's lines..
This book was not at all what I expected. It isn't anything like the movie, though I enjoyed both the stories of the book and the movie. I love vampire lore (huge Buffy fan here), but this was a totally new (new to me, I know the book was written in the 50s) and equally enjoyable take on the genre. This book went deeply into the scientific and psychological implications of a vampire apocalypse, which is a refreshing break from the more popular story line of humans falling in love with vampires and vice versa. I thought the reader was very good, though his woman voice was completely crazy. All in all, I was surprised and pleased!
My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.
And why is it better? Because it asks questions about what it means to be human that the movies choose to skip over. But to talk about what those questions are would be too much of a spoiler, so I'll just point out how much the current zombie craze owes to this book. From George Romero to The Walking Dead, this book anticipated and in some ways is still way ahead of them in exploring the possibilities. Here's the thing: not all of the night creatures in this book are inarticulate rotting zombies. And that's all I'm going to say about that.
I loved this book! I usually have a very hard time getting a new audiobook started. I am not that "into it" and will listen only a few days a week on my way home from work. But not in the mornings or after a hard day. This did not apply with this book! I was hooked from the start. It is eerie and compelling. I finished it in a few days.I even laid in bed listening to it! The movie was very loosely based on this book, so don't let that stop you. I found it cool it was written in the 1950s about the "future" in the 1970s. Wow! You will love it.
A quick listen, I got through the whole thing on a short road-trip. The narration suits the mood very well, the readers gruff voice bringing Neville to life and building the suspense of the story. I've never seen the movie (as some others have mentioned) but I've heard this original story has a much more interesting philosophical twist at the end and makes for a much darker and more interesting conclusion.
Matheson's classic tale of the last man on earth's battle against plague-ridden...vampires? That's right, before Romero ever set hordes of zombies loose upon the silver screen, Matheson had already done it, albeit with vampires. While it can be enjoyed on the surface as an excellent horror-thriller, it is also a strong exploration of the concept of what it means to be human, issues of violence and race domination. A short, but highly rewarding read. One of my top 10 of all time. I wasn't overly fond of the narrator for this, but I'm pretty sure that's a matter of personal preference.
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