Book Review: I Am Legend
The book is about the last man on Earth, Robert Neville, the sole survivor of a pandemic which has either killed everyone or turned them into a type of vampire (either living or dead). The disease is not supernatural but is caused by a bacteria that eventually kills those that it infects, but even dead the bacillus provides a sort of false life allowing the infected individual to continue. Victims of the plague display some intelligence but are mostly just violent and feral. The initial disease is spread by mosquitoes though it’s implied that a war is the main cause.
A good portion of the book is about Neville trying to learn about the plague and perhaps coming up with a cure. Part of his discovery process is looking back to his past when the plague first started. In this way, we find out about his family and friends and what happened to them.
The story then jumps 3 years in the future when he finds another “survivor” walking around in the daytime, a woman by the name of Ruth. Though she appears to be human, her story has holes and Neville begins to have suspicions. However, he also seems to fall in love with her, and she with him. He eventually tests her blood and finds out she is infected, but before he can act she knocks him out. When he comes to, he reads a note she left telling him that some of the infected have found a way to live with the disease and are attempting to rebuild society. However, these infected loathe and fear Neville because he has killed many of them. Ruth was sent as a spy to find out about him – she warns him to leave as her people will attempt to capture him. However, Neville disregards the warning and is eventually wounded and captured.
Waiting for his execution and near death from his wounds Ruth visits him in his cell and gives him pills so that he can die before he is publicly killed. For the last time he looks upon the outside world from his prison window and sees a throng of infected waiting for his execution. They see him and go quiet, and he realizes they are terrified of him. To them, Neville is a monster who stalks them during the daytime when they are quiescent. He has come full circle, from prey to hunter, victim to monster. His last thought before he dies is: “I am legend”.
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When you consider that it was written in 1954, the book was ahead of its time. It echoes in many way the Zombie movies that came after. I also liked the scientific explanation for vampires and vampirism and I thought the ending was great. I would give it a 4 out of 5.