I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

legendbook
I Am Legend
By Richard Matheson
Publisher: RosettaBooks
Kindle ASIN: B00514HDNW
Pages: 162
Genre: Science Fiction

Synopsis:

Robert Neville has witnessed the end of the world. The entire population has been obliterated by a vampire virus. Somehow, Neville survived. He must now struggle to make sense of everything that has happened and learn to protect himself against the vampires who hunt him constantly. He must, because perhaps there is nothing else human left.

*I have shortened this synopsis as it is unnecessarily lengthy, and I feel it reveals a key element better left to discovery.


thoughts

I Am Legend has been on my list for years. I am not sure why I let it go for as long as I have. I enjoyed both films greatly, although I hold a particular fondness for Omega Man (1971) with Heston. I feel it holds a bit truer to the actual book, but there are a few more adaptations in existence (so I am told).

I Am Legend follows protagonist Robert Neville after a plague has swept through, claiming the entirety of mankind and leaving nothing but vampiric beings in its wake. It is the end of times. Yet somehow, Neville remains. Alone and outnumbered, he must fight for survival and try to establish a life of solitude.

I want to note that for a brief portion of this story I actually listened to the audio book narrated by Robertson Dean. I can safely recommend it, as I found the narrator’s tone to be reminiscent of the actual film, Omega Man. It was nostalgic. So If you are in search a shorter audio book, this might be an ideal option. You could certainly knock this one off of your TBR in a matter of hours.

Where to start? This is a brilliant read! Cleverly disguised as your run-of-the-mill science fiction, I Am Legend delivers a reading experience that goes well beyond the expected. This is not just a mere story of a virus and mankind’s end. This is a keen observation of humanity through the eyes of one desperate and desolate human being.

“He stood there for a moment looking around the silent room, shaking his head slowly. All these books, he thought, the residue of a planet’s intellect, the scrapings of futile minds, the leftovers, the potpourri of artifacts that had no power to save men from perishing.”

Our main character is everything you would come to expect him to be. He is angry. He is despairing. And he is forever seeking answers and solutions. It is through Neville that we exposed to the horrors of what it is to be the last surviving human. The psychological ramifications are endless, and I feel that the 3rd person narration seen through Neville’s eyes conveys this appropriately with well-timed emotional responses and outburst. The sense of desperation is forever present in his relentless studies and efforts to find a cure, a solution. The loneliness is experienced through his need to reside within his own memories of his wife and a life that was. The added element of his alcoholism and sporadic actions expose his weakness and ineffective coping, reminding us once again that this is more than a science fiction story.

The writing is very impressive when you take into account that I Am Legend was originally published in 1954 and set with a futuristic Los Angeles during 1976. While the pace is somewhat slow, it is consistent and aids well in setting the atmosphere. I feel that it was a brazen decision on the author’s part to create a single character and leave him to his own devices while providing the reader with limited insight through the chosen narration. It is easy to see why this book has influenced multiple films. By the time you have completed Neville’s journey, I Am Legend will evoke a different type of fear that is very human and very real.

“Full circle. A new terror born in death, a new superstition entering the unassailable fortress of forever. I am legend.”

This is an ideal read for fans of the films, post apocalyptic settings and titles that take an abstract approach to exploring humanity. I found this to be a very solid first encounter with Matheson’s work, and it will certainly not be the end of the line in this new relationship. I walked away from I Am Legend with a real sense of why he is such a prolific name in science fiction.

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Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

darkmatter
past reviews
Dark Matter
By Blake Crouch
Narrated by  Jon Lindstrom
Audiobook ISBN13: 9781101924471
Length: 10+ hours
Genre: Science Fiction/Thriller

Blurb:
Jason Dessen is walking home through the chilly Chicago streets one night, looking forward to a quiet evening in front of the fireplace with his wife, Daniela, and their son, Charlie—when his reality shatters.

It starts with a man in a mask kidnapping him at gunpoint, for reasons Jason can’t begin to fathom—what would anyone want with an ordinary physics professor?—and grows even more terrifying from there, as Jason’s abductor injects him with some unknown drug and watches while he loses consciousness.

When Jason awakes, he’s in a lab, strapped to a gurney—and a man he’s never seen before is cheerily telling him “welcome back!”

Jason soon learns that in this world he’s woken up to, his house is not his house. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born.

And someone is hunting him.

Is the life Jason remembers just some crazed dream? And can he survive long enough to discover the answers he needs?


my-thought

Dark Matter boasts some impressive stats that include a Goodreads average of 4.12 with nearly 60,000 ratings. It  certainly holds the popular vote in recent science fiction thrillers. It has been on my TBR screaming at me for some time. I couldn’t seem to make that time though, so I turned to audio. And admittedly, I was pretty excited to begin what seemed to offer promises of sci-fi suspense.

Unfortunately, I found a lot of disappointment during my time with Dark Matter. A lot. I am going to keep this review on the light side for that very reason. I am not one to spend any significant time cutting into an authors hard work. I get that reading is a personal experience. I understand that just because I did not enjoy a book does not mean it is a bad book. Clearly this book has an audience. But I am not a part of that audience.

I fault part of my less than stellar experience partially on the fact that I was expecting something much more complex and dense than what I actually received. The plot, while not without interest, felt too familiar. I am no stranger to tales of multi-dimensional, alternate universe scenarios. And that is what we have here. Sure it’s was served with a dash of tech jargon a.k.a. fancy words, but I was unable to find anything grand beneath the surface. It was simply an okay story being delivered at a fast past with a the added element of love and family (which are not exactly original either).  The premise, while not to be labeled terrible, did not offer anything extremely new. For me Crouch’s sci-fi adventure read more as a steady blend of the many common components one can expect find frequently in tales of multiverse travels.

“We all live day to day completely oblivious to the fact that we’re a part of a much larger and stranger reality than we can possibly imagine.”

Sadly, the characters were the biggest disappointment here for me. I did not connect with our protagonist Jason in any beneficial way. If I am being honest, I came to find myself annoyed with him and his decision-making which was ultimately detrimental to my final impression of the story. The dialog was often dry and offered little in terms of stimulation or character development. There was no growth happening. World building was another area of lost potential. Each dimension and scenario felt bleak and almost bland. Maybe I have seen or read one too many multi-dimensional stories and the bar is set too high? But I really don’t feel that is the case.

With that all said, Dark Matter is not without a few notable qualities. The writing style felt fluid and the narration cohesive, which can be a challenge in science fiction. There was certainly significant possibilities buried within this story. The author has attempted to address elements of love and humanity within. He questions the what ifs.

“If you strip away all the trappings of personality and lifestyle, what are the core components that make me me?”

The execution and end product just fall short. I think this would be one that I might recommend for those who do not normally venture into sci-fi. It’s lack of complexity and easy readability, might make it ideal for anyone who is looking to ease into the genre. I have a feeling this one would translate better to film for myself. I was unable to find that magical connection that Dark Matter has seemed to so easily achieve with many others.

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The Man Who Fell To Earth by Walter Tevis

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The Man Who Fell To Earth
By Walter Tevis
Publisher: RosettaBooks
Kindle Edition
ASIN: B00O13WVIG
Pages: 196
Genre: Science Fiction

Blurb:

The basis for a feature film starring David Bowie in his first major role, The Man Who Fell to Earth tells the story of Thomas Jerome Newton, an alien disguised as a human who comes to Earth on a mission to save his people. Devastated by nuclear war, his home planet, Anthea, is no longer habitable. Newton lands in Kentucky and starts patenting Anthean technology, amassing the fortune he needs to build a spaceship that will bring the last 300 Anthean survivors to Earth.

But instead of the help he seeks, he finds only self-destruction, sinking into alcoholism, abandoning his spaceship, and can save neither his people nor himself. This is the poignant story of a man fallen to addiction, materialism, and loneliness.


my-thought

Finding the words to articulate my feelings for this poignant story is no easy task. It is one I have chosen to minimize as I feel this a novel best left interpreted by the individual reader. There is much to be gained during the small time spent with this classic novel.

Initially I did not fully discern just how much was happening within this misleadingly simple story of an alien from the planet  Anthea sent to Earth in hopes of securing a means to save his own race.

The plot is very basic. Our protagonist and the message he carries is anything but.

The Man Who Fell To Earth is not your typical speculative fiction. You will not find yourself whisked away to futuristic planets among incredible alien races. The only spaceship in this story no longer functions. There are no magical worlds and fantastical events occurring. No, this is not about any of those things. This is a journey of exploration that will take you much further than that. And that journey begins and ends with one man..

Meet T.J. Newton (Tommy). He has been sent to Earth in hopes of saving his race from their dying planet. His plan is simple. Patent Anthean technology (while disguised as a human) and acquire enough money to build a spaceship to bring the Antheans to Earth. However, all does not go exactly as Tommy plans and he ends up acquiring something much larger than any spaceship. Humanity.

“He was human; but not, properly, a man. Also, manlike, he was susceptible to love, to fear, to intense physical pain and to self-pity.”

The Man Who Fell To Earth is a quiet, elegant and lonely look at the deepest of  “human” characteristics through the eyes of an alien. Through Tommy’s time with man we observe life and the emotions and traits that encompass our very existence.  We are given a new perspective  and challenged to observe ourselves outwardly.

Tommy’s time away from Anthea is filled with pain and isolation. He lives alone among man in fear of discovery and even worse, failing. But his time on Earth results in more than he anticipates as he begins to assess his own feelings and the life surrounding him. He quickly sees the suffering and self-destructive behavior of mankind.

This is a slow, saddening excursion into the depths of humanity and existence that remains very relative to this day. The Man Who Fell To Earth, while short in length delivers a surprisingly impactful story full of underlying depth and significance.

My hope is to follow-up with a small review/comparison of the film starring David Bowie in the near future. Imagining Bowie as Tommy was an effortless process as the descriptions fit so fell. I immediately found myself ordering a collector’s edition that has been released just this year. Here is a look at the trailer for the remastered film from last year for those who might be curious.

As this review is about a week late, I now find I can’t help but recommend The Man Who Fell To Earth to all. It still lingers with me as I continue to attempt to fully interpret and dissect all that has been beautifully packed into this classic and deceptively simplistic story. This would be a wonderful selection for a discussion or group reading.

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