I Am Legend is a written by Richard Matheson and released in 1954. It tells the story of Robert Neville, capturing the daily grind and horror of his life as someone who might just be the last man alive on earth. The story takes place between 1976 and 1979, as follows Neville as he goes about surviving alone following the sudden appearance of an apocalyptic plague that he is somehow immune to. The plague itself causes people to display many of the symptoms associated with vampires. The infected are vulnerable to sunlight and stakes, fearful of garlic and have a constant craving for fresh blood.
Nevilles existence is a modest one. He spends his days repairing his house, boarding up windows, disposing of vampire corpses, and hanging up strings of garlic around his home. His day light hours are also spent hunting vampires as they sleep in an attempt to thin their numbers.
The book is as much a psychological study of how a man comes to terms with living alone, as it is anything else. At times Neville borders on the insane, but the will to survive keeps bringing him back from the edge. His decision to study and understand the plague gives his life further purpose.
As Neville's studies continue, we learn that some of the infected have discover a way to hold the virus at bay. Whilst they display many of the characteristics of the vampires that haunt Neville at night, such as an aversion to sunlight and sleeping during the day, they have retained much of their humanity. To Neville though, it is hard to tell the difference.
When he stumbles across a female survivor, Ruth, one day, his life is thrown into chaos. Can he trust her after all he's seen and done?
Is the book any good? Yes. Whilst it's not very long (just over 170 pages), this makes sure things keep moving along. This is not a horror novel, nor is it a vampire story. It's a story about the lengths a man will go to in order to survive, and how he deals with loneliness. In short, it's a good read.
I decided to read this book after seeing an early preview of the film "I Am Legend" on YouTube. Having read the novel now, as well as some information on the film, it appears as though the two stories will differ somewhat. But with that said, I'm still looking forward to the movie.
If you haven't seen it already, here's a trailer for "I Am Legend" starring Will Smith.