Story Spotlight: I Am Legend – Richard Matheson

I seldom enjoy vampire stories, yet I appreciated I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. I imagine this was due in part to the distinct way this novel handles the creatures. It might also have had to do with the author’s unique style when compared to the genre at large. Or maybe it was just that the vampires in this story are little more than a backdrop–I think it could have worked just as well if the book had taken place on a snow-covered mountain with bears. Likely, it was all of the above.

But those are simply reasons why I didn’t dislike the novel. As for what I liked, well there was plenty.

I always appreciate an extended look into a character’s psyche. It’s usually the element I find most compelling in a story. As such, Matheson’s deep-dive into Robert Neville’s mind is excellent. You can feel his loneliness, his obsessions, his fears. Neville feels alive.

I also love Matheson’s unique, scientific explanations for vampires. Which is great, because this element not only differentiates I Am Legend from others in the genre, but it also serves as a compelling focus for the main character. Again, I think it would have worked just as well in a number of other settings. However, the fact that it works so well as a plot device while also redeeming the vampire backdrop shows this novel as an example of superb plotting.

Still, there were elements that I didn’t care for.

Certain areas of the story feel rushed and don’t seem to flow logically. Which is a striking contrast, as other parts of the book are handled with extraordinary precision and care. For example, Matheson spends a considerable amount of time carefully building Neville’s relationship with the dog. But when Neville meets a woman, the relationship seems to spring out of nowhere, and the the story takes an odd turn, sacrificing coherence for a swifter pace to the finish line. So the climax fumbles a little in my opinion, but the denouement turns it right back around and ends the novel on a solid note.

So, all in all a great read, but lacking a little.

 

4 out of 5 stars

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