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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The Woman in Black: A Ghost Story (The Woman in Black #1) by Susan Hill

womaninblackbook
The Woman in Black: A Ghost Story (The Woman in Black #1)
By Susan Hill
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN13: 9780307745316
Pages: 164
Genre: Paranormal/Classic Fiction

Synopsis:

Arthur Kipps, a junior solicitor in London, is summoned to Crythin Gifford to attend the funeral of Mrs Alice Drablow, and to sort through her papers before returning to London. It is here that Kipps first sees the woman in black and begins to gain an impression of the mystery surrounding her. From the funeral he travels to Eel Marsh House and sees the woman again; he also hears the terrifying sounds on the marsh.

Despite Kipps’s experiences he resolves to spend the night at the house and fulfil his professional duty. It is this night at Eel Marsh House that contains the greatest horror for Kipps. Kipps later discovers the reasons behind the hauntings at Eel Marsh House. The book ends with the woman in black exacting a final, terrible revenge.


thoughts

The Woman in Black is one of those rare instances of watched film before reading book. It doesn’t happen often. And I feel confident in saying that in this case it had no affect on my experience. Admittedly, it has been several years since I have watched the film, but still I think that my previous statement would hold true regardless of time passed. I may re-watch this weekend to test that (no scratch that – nonhusband is leaving for week, no ghost stories. Probably will anyways. I live to torment myself apparently.)

Told through the recounting of a very pragmatic narrator Arthur Kipps, this is a classic tale of the paranormal. Attending the funeral of Mrs. Drablow and her estate affairs at Eel Marsh house, the young solicitor is visited by an unwelcome guest, the Woman in Black. As Mr. Kipps discovers the purpose of this visit and its significance, it soon comes to a conclusion in one final moment that will forever alter his life. Now, years later he has decided to commit the events that transpired during his time in Crythin Gifford to pen and tell his story.

“I have sat here at my desk, day after day, night after night, a blank sheet of paper before me, unable to lift my pen, trembling and weeping too.”

I find it important to mention that while this is a dark and eerie tale, it moves at a very slow but not intolerable pace. This is not a thriller. We are gifted with a writing style that is elegant and effortlessly transports the reader into Victorian era England, setting the stage for a wonderfully traditional ghost story. The author utilizes all elements available to  construct a remarkably atmospheric and melancholic read.

Admittedly this is not the “terrifying” read one might expect. Shelving it as horror is an undoubted stretch. But do not discredit its merit as far as ghost stories are concerned. First published in 1983, the author has brilliantly established the air of a true classic read. While it does not harbor the gruesome components we have come to know and expect from such a story today, if you allow yourself to be fully immersed within the successful world building and story telling, you soon discover that the underlying plot of revenge is haunting enough in its own right.

“It was true that the ghastly sounds I had heard through the fog had greatly upset me but far worse was what emanated from and surrounded these things and arose to unsteady me, an atmosphere, a force – I do not exactly know what to call it – of evil and uncleanness, of terror and suffering, of malevolence and bitter anger”

Cleverly narrated and written to read as having been authentically conceived in the 19th century, there is a lot to be appreciated and admired within the pages of this chilling tale of revenge.  And therein lies the real accomplishment of The Woman in Black. This somewhat Gothic tale is likely to find a welcomed home among the many fans of Poe and more classic tales of fright. A slow burn with a dramatic ending, I can only recommend experiencing The Woman in Black personally to fully understand all that it has to offer. This is what ghost stories are made of.

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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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