©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.
"Excellent first listen"
This is the first book I have ever listened to and have to say it was absolutely spellbinding. Gripping, tense and thought provoking I loved every single minute of the 5 hour listening time. Good choice of narrator too.
I listened to this book after watching the film as I was intrigued by the story and guessed that there would be more to a book than the film. But wow, was I wrong, the book and film could really be two completely different stories, but with the same concept. The book is brilliantly written and takes place in 1950's America. The naration is lovely, almost radio like, which adds to the ambience of the story, its dramatic and scary and takes up speed along the way. The ending is most unexpected, but fits more in with the story book than the film. I don't want to give much of the story away in my review in fear of putting the reader off because of the vast differences between film and book, but suffice to say, it is worth reading and I promise you will enjoy every word of it. If you haven't seen the film already, listen to the book first.
"Maybe the grimmest ending of any book"
If the only version of "I am Legend" you have heard of is the Will "Fresh Prince" Smith film version you are in for a treat. This is the book that, to my mind, created the modern vampire/zombie genre of horror. It is not a big, action fuelled story but a grim story played out on a human level by a very ordinary and at times quite unlikeable protagonist. Robert Neville is no superhero but an ordinary man who happens to be immune to the virus that has turned the rest of the world into zombie-like creatues. The action takes place in Neville's dull suburban street and the first section of the book details his daily routine and his struggle to maintain his sanity. The later plot develops a romantic theme and the final third of the novel dips a little but the ending is, quite simply, stunning.
This audiobook version is very good, the reader/actor captures some of Neville's grimness and despair and the pacing is excellent. I thoroughly recommed this, I've bought print copies for several of my friends.
"Genuinely grippping horror"
I really enjoyed this book; the tension grips you round the throat from the start, and never lets up. A rightly famous story. I haven't seen the movie version but it would be difficult to better the book.
I docked a star as I wasn't too taken with the narrator, but I'ld still strongly recommend the book.
"A Classic - not to be ignored"
A classic book that is nothing like the film – but in a good way
Story – 5/5
This story is an absolute masterpiece, and a classic that all fantasy/zombie apocalypse fans should read. At first, it seems to combine what we stereotype zombies and vampires to be, but it then moves more towards them being vampires.
I Am Legend is split into two, the first part being about how Robert Neville fights the psychological impacts of solitude, the second part about the evolution of the germ/vampires. Both parts are told brilliantly, and I was not expecting the second half/ending at all, making it that extra bit special.
The prose is easy and smooth, and his characterisation of Robert Neville is superb. He is extremely believable; he makes mistakes, he is not a genius scientist overnight – he needs to learn from scratch, and he not a created as a hero typical of Hollywood film adaptations. We follow him carefully through sadness, anger and frustration. One part especially brought a lump to my throat (you will know which part when you listen to/read it).
There is a reason this has stood the test of time. As it is cheap on audible, do what I did and wait for a sale rather than use up a more expensive credit. It is a bargain that you will not regret.
Performance – 3/5
Robertson Dean is a good narrator – he portrayed the dark and hopeless tone of the story fantastically. There was only a small amount of voice acting needed, but all was done well. Although he was fine for the 5hrs of this book, I am not sure I could listen to him for much longer, as he can sound a bit dull when he was narrating, but this may have just been his approach to this type of story.
I did have a problem with the production of this though. As I listen to audiobooks while driving on the motorway, the road noise can be loud. Quite often, the volume went from loud to quiet for a minute and then back to loud again. This meant I needed to alter the volume regularly to hear it. If you are listening in a quiet environment, you probably won’t have the same issue.
Overall – 4/5
A fantastically written book that offers the reader a delve into a character that is so well formed that you understand him, and his struggle brilliantly. If you enjoyed the film, then download this, but take note; this is MUCH better than the film, which essentially misses the whole point of the book!
Great book, well worth a read.
"A classic vamp tale or is it?"
This was a very good listen, in turns, thoughtful, sad, gripping and poignant. Robert Neville's isolated struggle to survive against the odds certainly held my attention to the bitter end. Much much better than the film which messes around with the brilliantly thought provoking ending and the meeting of a certain character(I can't imagine why they changed it) which stakes the tale together so well (sorry about the pun, but too tempting)
You wouldn't be dissapointed with this if you like horror, vampires, and even a small dose of science. Well read too by Robertson Dean, a shame when it ended, but it does end so well.
"Great story, ok narration, neurotic character"
It's a good story and it kept me going to the end. It is however, and this may or may not be a good thing - depending on what you hoped to get out of the book, not much like the film.
From a purely character point of view this feels a lot like the Bourne Identity (see my review of that title). The main character is effectively alone and his reaction is probably realistic, however the way he comes across is rather neurotic and, at times, irritating.
It felt like a lot of time was spent with him drinking away his frustrations and ruminating on his situation, and not much character development seemed to be occurring.
There were a couple of plot areas that stretched the point and caused my suspension of disbelief to stop - his developing an expertise in virology/cellular biology for example. However this is possibly me being overly critical in my review.
If you enjoyed the film and are interested in the inspiration or source of the story, then you will enjoy this. If you are looking for a audio version of the film, this isn't it.
"Not much happens..."
Having seen this on the top of a popularity list, I thought it be worth trying but whilst the writing is good and very convincing, you could sum up the story in about one sentence (which I won't of course). The plot could have been covered off in a short story. Disappointing.
"Dark, grim classic sci-fi"
Filmed twice, (The Omega Man with Charlton Heston in the '70s, and I Am Legend with Will Smith a few years ago), this is a classic sci-fi tale by the man who also wrote The Duel. This recording has been used in an abridged form on Radio Four Extra recently. It is very effectively read and is a dark, claustrophobic story. I found it absorbing and compelling. If you like high quality science fiction without slash and gore, then this is for you.
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