Richard Matheson

Tor Books / 320 pages / 2d edition (October 30, 2007)

ISBN: 0765357151

If you haven’t read I Am Legend, but you’ve seen the movie versions, The Last Man on Earth (with Vincent Price) and/or The Omega Man (starring the dictator of the NRA, Charlton Heston), there is still hope for you. Thankfully, the original story is still in print and easy to find. So, forget that warfare plague and odd immunity crap and read the real story, the sink-your-teeth-in vampire masterpiece. It will change the way you look at yourself and the amalgam of the world around you right now.

Robert Neville has a rough life, working day and night. While the sun shines he slaves away, killing off the competition… one vampire at a time. His methods are simple and direct. Kill as many as humanly possible. Kill them — kill them again, that is, and make sure they don’t come back this time. If you have to choose one person to save the world, Neville is a damn good choice.

He spends his nights keeping the remaining bloodsuckers from forcibly recruiting him for their army of darkness. The lengths he goes to to excel at both jobs is truly impressive and ingenious. Also deadly — but it’s us or them, after all. The systems he has developed to slay the vampires and to fend them off is not the kind of thing you’d see in Home Alone. Did I mention there is plenty of violence and gore?

Unfortunately, every night sees more of “them” and less of “us.” And this is where the book transcends a simple vampire story and becomes a showpiece of the genre andeye-opening social commentary.

Matheson uses his horror story to make a point: What is normal? Sure, at first the vampires are a small but vocal minority. A minority that threatens the existence of humanity. Killing them off should be no problem, though. But what about when their numbers grow? At some point, the “us” is bound to become the “them.” What happens when the balance of power shifts? Every day is a losing battle to prevent a complete take-over. Every day brings Neville closer to being the ultimate minority of one.

It’s a nightmarish vision of the future, told with such graphic detail that it seems all too possible. Matheson’s command of narrative delivers a riveting, exciting story every time. That power is never more evident than between the covers of I Am Legend. If ever a book was made to read in one sitting, this complex horror novel is it. Before you read yet another gothic vampire novel, read the story that’s different. You may forget the details of the other books, but this one will stay with you. And get that grey matter working.