Friday, 21 December 2007

Page Turners: I am legend

Our final book for discussion this year was I am legend, by Richard Matheson. This is a classic horror/science fiction novel, written in the 1950s, set in the 1970s, about a man who is the last man alive-as-we-know-it.

The basic premise is that everyone else has been turned into a vampire, leaving our hero 'Robert Neville' to barricade himself inside his house at night, and fend for himself by day -- which largely involves scavenging canned food, bottled water, car parts/fuel etc from abandoned supermarkets and such.

The book was generally very well received among the readers in our group, with a number saying they'd not been so engaged by a book (to the point it was unputdownable) in a long time.

I enjoyed it as well, but found too many plot holes to be completely swept away by it. While the themes it explored were interesting (isolation, companionship, segregation, survival, humanity, evolution), the science rather ironically let me down.

Fundamentally, I didn't much like the fact that the novel attempts to explain vampires using science -- or at least it tried to explain the condition of the people in this particular novel. Maybe it's the fantasy reader/writer/lover in me, but I'm more willing to suspend disbelief for something that is purely "other", than something with a dodgy scientific explanation. And for me the explanation (which centered around the vampire condition being a bacterial disease) was very dodgy. The attempt seemed rather half-hearted.

Nevertheless, it was a good story about a man who first comes to terms with his situation, then strives to deal with it and asserts his dominance, only to find everything coming full circle again.

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