It’s Halloween, so there is no better day to talk about a book that still haunts me, years after reading it. As a reader, I loved the book, but as a writer, there is so much to learn from it!
I read I Am Legend by Richard Matheson a few years ago and I still find myself thinking about it all the time. Essentially, it follows Neville, the last man on Earth, when the world has been overtaken with vampires. The utter despair and loneliness of Neville’s situation is something that has stuck with me. Neville goes about his day, staking vampires as they sleep, fortifying his home, ignoring the voices of his neighbors who want to kill him at night.
A man could get used to anything if he had to.
A simple sentence. A simple idea. But, somehow, I find myself, again and again, going back to it. How often to we get used to terrible experiences and situations because we have to? Forget the vampires. For me, that quote is the real horror that can seep beyond the confines of a horror story.
Later in the story, too, I am forced to question everything that I believe, and not just about the story, but about life itself.
HERE THERE BE SPOILERS: At the end of the novel, Neville realizes that he has become what the vampires fear, the monster attacking their children. He hasn’t been a single man standing against abomination, but a relic of the old world terrorizing the new world.
The way the ending is achieved still gives me chills to think about. And if Matheson could paint a true horror of existence in his horror story, couldn’t this final revelation be another truth about the world? When have I been the bad guy? How do I discover what is true about myself or the world or others?
This was the book that made me question everything, and I have no regrets.