I Am Legend

By Richard Matheson,

Book cover of I Am Legend

Book description

An acclaimed SF novel about vampires. The last man on earth is not alone ...Robert Neville is the last living man on Earth ...but he is not alone. Every other man, woman and child on the planet has become a vampire, and they are hungry for Neville's blood. By day…

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Why read it?

17 authors picked I Am Legend as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Legends are made of powerful stuff, and nothing has greater power than a total flip in perspective. I still recall the gut-punch end to this book, though it’s been decades since I read it. 

Robert Neville is a vampire hunter by day and a tormented man by night. As seemingly the only living human in post-apocalyptic Los Angeles, Robert faces depression, isolation, alcoholism, and his undead neighbor, Ben Cortman, who appears outside Robert’s front door each night chanting, "Come out, Neville."

But when Robert is finally captured, and the truth of his situation is revealed, he gets a good look…

Like many novels from the 1950s, the early sci-fi writers had a profound influence on post-golden age sci-fi works.

Matheson, along with Shelley’s concept of zombies has set the stage for countless scary stories. This book alone has been adapted into three movies, and with actors Vincent Price, Charlton Heston, and Will Smith show the interest in the zombie phenomenon.

I love this book for its deep human factors of isolation, loneliness, and even in the most depressing situations survival is a fundamental need, until it’s grinder down to nothingness. I have always been drawn to Matheson for his work…

From Robbie's list on sci-fi from the 1950s.

This book is a classic example of exceptional world building and detail. The lone human survivor among a word now ruled by vampires, Robert Neville’s daily existence is expertly documented by Matheson. Each meal and drink he prepares to get through his daily horror feels so real. His isolation feels so real. The descriptions of what it would actually be like to fall asleep at night when an army of vampires is patiently waiting outside your house is beyond gripping. Despite solid efforts from those involved, the film adaptation that was later made doesn’t scratch the surface of the power…

From Livio's list on riveting worlds.

A horror classic that crisscrosses the vampire and the zombie genres with a post-apocalyptic world. This book had a huge impact on me when I first read it. [spoilers] to have the narrator battle so hard against the world and then at the end accept that it was no longer worth fighting changed my idea of what novels could do. Endings were not always about winning.

From David's list on where the dead have something to say.

Arguably the most influential vampire novel since Dracula, I Am Legend is one of my all-time favorites. Upon publication, vampire tales were almost universally set in far-off lands or gothic metropolitan areas, usually period pieces, and strictly supernatural in nature. But Matheson set I Am Legend in a suburban neighborhood, in the then-near-future, and explored vampires created and driven by a germ. Called an “inspiration” by Stephen King (who also named Matheson as “the author who influenced me the most as a writer”), I Am Legend left me wondering how I would manage to survive as the proverbial last…

From Christopher's list on putting a different spin on a popular genre.

Contrary to its famous film adaptation, I Am Legend is a dark social commentary about isolation and depression. After losing his family to a vampire virus, the main character is desperate to belong, but his pessimism is palpable throughout the novel. It's this dichotomy between loneliness and callousness that's makes the novels so relatable, even with its tragic ending.

From Frank's list on monster stories about humanity.

You may have heard of this because of the movie starring Will Smith. It’s a 1954 post-apocalyptic horror novel that was influential in the modern development of zombie and vampire literature and in popularizing the concept of a worldwide apocalypse due to disease. This book is very powerful in many ways. The loneliness and isolation the main character feels surrounded by monstrous creatures that used to be human is something that sticks with you. It’s a brilliant book that influenced my own story of being alone and fighting for survival.

From John's list on madness, fear, and the unknown.

I Am Legend is the best Science Fiction novel ever written about vampires and the whole notion of surviving the end of the world. I read it once a year because it is short, and the novel never ceases to blow my mind. Several movies have been made from the book, with the best being The Omega Man with Charlton Heston as Robert Neville, the last living man on Earth in a world populated by (in the novel, vampires; in the movie version with Heston, zombies). The novel also inspired Night of the Living Dead. Matheson’s writing places you…

Back in the 1950s, writers like Richard Matheson started moving the horror story away from the traditional, gothic tale often taking place in remote castles to a more modern setting where the horror was found in our cities and suburbs. I remember buying this paperback as a kid, sitting hunched over on a green bus stop bench, waiting for the bundle of newspapers to be dropped off on the sidewalk so I could begin my paper route for that day, reading another chapter about this lonely man barricaded in his home in a world that had been overrun by vampires.…

From Ralph's list on things ending badly—really badly.

Matheson has a way with words that few have been able to replicate since. This novelpossibly his most famous workcombines light reading with heavy subtext interwoven into the story. It’s the kind of tale that makes you pause on the final page, reflecting on the message of the storyonly to have it hit you harder every time you’re reminded of it, as more meaning builds upon previous thoughts. Matheson’s writing is beautiful, purposeful, and accessible, but the scenes he creates with those words are fraught with danger and dread. He is able to craft…

From Andy's list on gateway into the horror genre.

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