I Am Legend Book—If This Is the Future of Humanity, the End of the World Is Going to Suck!

The 2017 post-apocalyptic action film of the same title starring Will Smith is based on Richard Matheson’s work published in 1954. Both offer a similar premise, in which Robert Neville – the main character – is probably the last man alive in the world. All other people, men, and women, have been infected by a virus and transformed into undead creatures. However, the I Am Legend book has a lot of details different from the film. 

Vampire Novel of the Century

I Am Legend:

In 2012, a century after the death Bram Stoker, the Horror Writers Association considered 35 books published over the last 100 years for the Vampire Novel of the Century Award. Among the strongest nominees were such popular titles as Salem’s Lot by Stephen King, Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice, and Anno Dracula by Kim Newman. The award went to I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. It was a one-off Bram Stoker prize; nobody knows if there is going to be a similar thing in the future.

Vampire Killer

I Am Legend:

Robert Neville inevitably becomes a vampire killer. During the day when the creatures are vulnerable, he hunts them down and kills as many as possibly manageable. Every now and then, he reinforces the barricade around the house and uses a combination of garlic, mirrors, and crucifixes as repellents. Through experimentations to study the creatures’ biology and conditions, Neville learns that vampirism is caused by a strain of bacteria, and he has developed immunity against the infection.

Kill or Be Killed

From the experiments, Neville figures out vampires’ fears of light and immunity to bullets. Part of the horror is made up of every fight against the undead, but the scariest part comes from the way Neville is forced to live his life. It is a “kill or be killed” routine, forcing him to commit barbaric slaughters from dawn to dusk. He wants to stay alive, but at the end of the day a human no longer has a place in this altered world. 

Human Loneliness

Neville is not alone; he is lonely. It is still a crowded world full of the undead, but I Am Legend is hardly a novel on vampires. Some argue it is not even a horror story at all. Instead, the novel offers a study of human loneliness. Although the premise includes many killings and good scares, everything points to an in-depth insight into one man’s inner struggle to defend humanity for himself. He is the only human left on a planet now dominated by non-human inhabitants. In a way, Neville is archaic. 

A Revolutionary Take on an Old Archetype

The I Am Legend book also marks a departure from Richard Matheson’s own literary style. His previous works, mostly comprised of short stories, range from simplistic to competent. The 1954 novel, on the other hand, demonstrates a notable leap toward a much greater sophistication and showcases a careful yet undeniably creative artistic approach.

In one section of the novel, Neville is depicted as reading and then putting down Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Any keen reader will notice how the seemingly simple act makes for a perfect symbol to represent a revolutionary take on an old vampire archetype. The novel describes the vampires not as folklore creatures or mythical figures from Victorian supernaturalism. It gives rational causation to the emergence of the undead. In fact, the novel brings in the germ theory as a scientific rationalization of vampirism to modern popularity.

Vampires or Zombies

I Am Legend: vampire or zombie

The undead creatures are called “vampires” in I Am Legend, but their traits and how they spread the infections share more similarities to zombies than to traditional vampires. They are still cannibalistic blood-sucking monsters, but the infection is not always triggered by a bite in the neck. Matheson’s take on the origin story of vampires and their characteristics therefore end up being used as the basis for modern zombie genre or zombie apocalypse in general.

Of the “Night of the Living Dead”

I Am Legend: night of the living dead

Case in point is George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, often regarded as one of the greatest and most influential zombie films ever. According to Romero himself, Night of the Living Dead is based on a short story ripped off from Matheson’s I Am Legend. They share plenty in common, such as the planet-wide infection and storytelling point of view from a fixed location. 

Becoming a Legend

The well-organized and calm writing style does nothing to lessen Neville’s ordeal. In addition to dealing with deadly vampires daily, he still has to find a way to cope with loss of his wife and daughter. Drinking does not help, and killing the undead will not bring his family back. As the storyline progresses, Neville’s sanity takes a toll just as readers begin to get a grip on how much he can possibly endure. Everything he does since the early days of the outbreak leads to a conclusion that he is an outdated form of life, a legendary killer in the eyes of the new breed.

How It Ends

Matheson’s I Am Legend gives a bleak look on the fate civilization amidst a vampire outbreak. Neville has come to accept that he is a mere remnant of humanity. In a world overrun by vampires, he is nothing but a boogeyman. He is a monster to the vampires, a strange elusive killer with an intention to erase the new society. As an admittance of defeat, Neville gives up and takes his own life. If this is the future of humanity, the end of the world is going to suck.

We felt badly for the character Neville in I Am Legend. Let’s face it, how tough would it be to live as the last human on the planet? And in a world of vampires, no less! We LOVE bleak and hopeless scenarios like that! What do you think? Would you like to be in Neville’s position if it means you get to remain human and alive? Or would you rather join the majority and rule the night? Let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

If you liked this then you might also like The I Am Legend Dog: The Saddest Moment in the Movie—Who Played the Dog? Who Trained It? What’s the Dog Doing Now? And More

Other things you might want to know about.

Vampire Killer books

According to womansday.com here’s a list of 25 vampire books that will keep you up all night.

  1. Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  2. Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
  3. The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
  4. Sunshine by Robin McKinley
  5. The Fell of Dark by Caleb Roehrig
  6. The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez
  7. Enter, Night by Michael Rowe
  8. The Keep by F. Paul Wilson
  9. The Vampire Tapestry by Suzy McKee Charnas
  10. Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler
  11. Anno Dracula by Kim Newman
  12. The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh
  13. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
  14. Vlad by Carlos Fuentes
  15. The Passage by Justin Cronin
  16. My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due
  17. Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton
  18. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith
  19. Morrigan’s Cross by Nora Roberts
  20. Children of the Night by Dan Simmons
  21. Blue Bloods by Melissa de la Cruz
  22. Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore
  23. Let the Right One In by John Ajvide
  24. Dead Until Dark by Charmaine Harris
  25. Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

Go to womansday.com for more details about these vampire books. Keep the light on when you start reading!

Five vampire traits that exist in the natural world.

According to theconversation.com here are some vampire traits that you may want to be on the lookout for. 

  1. Drinking blood
  2. Immortality
  3. Avoiding sunlight
  4. Heightened senses
  5. Morphing

Go to the conversation.com and read Louise Gentle’s article for more details on these vampire traits. 

What are the best vampire movies?

According to indiewire.com here are the best vampire movies ever made. 

15. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)

14. The Addiction (1995)

13. Near Dark (1987)

12. Thirst (2009)

11. Daughters of Darkness (1971)

10. Gangs & Hess (1973)

 9. What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

 8. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

 7. Isle of the Dead (1945)

 6. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

 5. Cronos (1993)

 4. Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

 3. The Hunger (1983)

 2. Let the Right One In (2008)

 1. Nosferatu (1922)

Go to indiewire.com to read more details about each of these movies. The article is called The 15 Best Vampire Movies Ever Made and is written by Alison Foreman.