Friday 6 August 2010

REVIEW: I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson (4*)

(Gollancz, 2006)

It's hard to know what to say about this book without spoiling the unfolding narrative for future readers, so I'll keep it fairly brief! Robert Neville is the lone survivor of a mysterious plague that has killed everyone he loves and turned his friends and neighbours into vampires. He spends his days repairing his home, making garlic strings to protect his property, and staking vampires where they sleep. When darkness falls he must barricade his door and steel himself to a night of his neighbours calling to him from the garden, the men heaving rocks at his house as the women expose themselves in an attempt to lure him outside.

This book is many things. It is an accomplished, atmospheric and well-paced dystopian novel, in which Matheson excels at ripping the rug out from under the reader every time they become too complacent. It is a reminder of the ease in which a simple biological mutation could begin a pandemic with the ability wipe out a species and destroy humanity as we know it. It is a sly jab at the changing nature of society, in which one day's normality may become the next day's abomination. It is an exploration of loneliness, of the human need for companionship and the way the mind copes with enforced solitude. And it is a homage to courage, to the will to survive, and to the struggle for knowledge and understanding.

I'm not sure yet that this will be keeper for me - would it, I wonder, yield more on a second reading, or would it lose its sparkle with foreknowledge of the way the narrative unfolds? I'd definitely recommend it anyway, for anyone who enjoys a pacy dystopian thriller with some deeper questions thrown in for good measure...

Source: I bought this book from Amazon UK.