I Am Legend - Richard Matheson

Saying this book is about vampires (who’re on the cover btw), would be incorrect in my opinion. This is a great book about solitude/isolation/loneliness. It’s way different than the movie (which is about zombies). It doesn’t have a happy ending. But it does have an unexpected ending.

The story begins with Robert Neville (the protagonist), using various objects like crosses/garlic/stakes to protect his place against the vampires who attack him every evening after sunset. He’s gotten used to all the killing he has to do at night. During the day, he reinforces his house against the vampires, studies and experiments on the vampires he catches in order to find a cure or maybe just find someone to talk to (or maybe both are the same). The way in which everything about him and what he does is described is just incredible.

Robert had a wife and a daughter who had died because of the same disease. His wife had actually unburied herself after he buried her and came back to his house to kill him. He had to use a wooden stake to kill her again. This scarred him for life. After living 8-9 months without seeing a living person/animal, he saw a dog who was scared of him at first but got along better with him after a couple of months. All Robert did was talk to the dog and feed him. He thought that the fact that the dog wasn’t sick even after so many months might mean it’s immune and help in his research, a prospect which he discarded and thought of the dog as a friend. It was all going well till one day the dog got sick and ultimately died.

Robert was back to his research again and one day he encountered a woman (Ruth), walking in the sun (which the vampires weren’t supposedly able to do). He forcibly brought her to his home, talked to her, gave her food, drinks, and a place to stay, and told her all about his research. He offered to test her for the vampire bacteria and when he was looking in the microscope, she struck him on the head with a mallet and Robert fainted. When he woke up, he found a letter explaining that Ruth was actually a vampire, who was there to spy on him and that he was the one who killed her husband (also a vampire). There was a pill that was developed that allowed the vampires to keep their minds and not die. They could even walk in the sun for a few hours. Ruth told him to run (as she had seen the good in him) and hide as they were now coming to kill him.

Robert didn’t run. He fought back. There were 5 of them, and he couldn’t beat them. They shot him in the chest and took him to their place of gathering. Ruth still pitied him and gave him a pill secretly and gave him a way to die painlessly (without a public demonstration).

That’s when he realized that the society he once knew no longer existed and in the new society he was the murderer. He was the boogeyman in this new society. He was what the vampires were once to the humans. The last line reads “I am legend” because that’s exactly what he was, just not in the way one would expect.

Rating: 9/10

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