I Am Legend is a classic 1954 horror novel by Richard Matheson and is widely considered to have been responsible for the birth of the “end of the world” genre as we know it. However, unlike many of its successors, the novel does not focus so much on action, instead diving into the psychology of the main character.
Robert Neville is a middle-aged man, a father and husband, and, tragically, the last man on earth. The rest of humanity has been wiped out by a disease that swept the planet and transformed those infected into vampires—cliche vampires; afraid of garlic, crosses, and the like. We follow our protagonist Neville as he goes about his monotonous daily routine: fortifying his house, scavenging for supplies, and doing his best to research the behaviors and weaknesses of the creatures. The vampires gather outside his home at night, but their intelligence is limited enough that they don’t seem to be any real threat; Neville struggles much more with his grief and loneliness having lost his wife and daughter months ago.
Neville is a very flawed character—which is important to the story. A lot of the book is devoted to exploring his thoughts, and it is these flaws that make his psyche interesting. However, one of the biggest problems I had with the book was that the author sometimes seemed to overshare about Neville, either going on and on about one thing longer than it interested me or sharing things that damaged his likeability. Considering that Neville is the only character present in most of the story, it is hard to enjoy the book if you aren’t rooting for him.
That being said, I Am Legend takes an unusual approach to horror that managed to hold my attention whether or not I was attached to the character. Having spent the last year in quarantine, the use of confinement and isolation as sources of ‘horror’ hits strikingly close to home. Neville’s endeavor throughout the story to research and cure the vampires seems like an impossible task, but his little triumphs every couple of chapters provide an incentive to keep reading. Without going into detail, the book has an unexpected ending that puts everything into a new light. The reveal made me glad I stuck around until the end.
Overall, I Am Legend makes up for its lack of a cast with a captivating plot. I recommend it to anyone interested in horror, and I encourage those who pick it up to get a good eight or nine chapters in before putting it down–it gets much more interesting the more you read.
— Quin Hammon