Saturday, November 24, 2007

Off Topic Novel--Not a Vampire Story, But A Story With Vampires In It

I Am Legend (Audio CD), Richard Matheson, Robertson Dean (Narrator), Blackstone Audio Inc.; Unabridged edition, $19.95, 2007.

The Civil War Librarian doesn't read vampire stories; I rank them just above musicals that feature dancing cowboys. Yes, I have read one Anne Rice novel and one Stephen King vampire novel. But, a really well written novel in the horror genre will always attract me. Peter Straub's Ghost Story is a favorite and now beside it on the bookshelf is Richard Matheson's I Am Legend.

Often taught in college English courses as an example of superlative interior monolog, I Am Legend is the story of what may be the last ordinary man on earth. A plague devastes the human population of the west coast of the United States, or maybe the planet. Written in 1954 and set in 1976, the novel tells the story of Robert Neville, a survivor who suffers the constant threat of vampires. Living outside in daylight, and bunkered into his well-adapted house during the night, Neville is beseiged by vampires, his conscience, and the precariousness of finding food and fuel.

Neville may be immune to the disease due to a slight infection he had a decade before in Central America; parts of the novel are stories of Neville's scientific experiements on his blood and the blood of vampires. Other parts deal with the pragmatics of securing his home against the night predators. Other segments involve Neville's hunting expedition's for food, a pet, and any other survivors. Using flasbacks, Matheson describes the loss of the protagonist's wife to the plague and then later her murder. Matheson visits his daughter's grave and his wife's pyre, at which the U.S. government commanded all infected bodies be burned. By the end of the book the fire is still burning. in part from Neville's contributions to it.

. . . and the ending took me by surprise. Not a surprise that is cheap or hidden, not a deus ex machina either. It is a wind up that is so tight, so well written, so logical that I almost held my breath through it . . . and I was driving my car. I am a big fan of unabridged audio books and Blackstone Audiobooks is my favorite production company. Blackstone's narrators are superb and the production is always top notch.

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