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I Am Legend is a 1954 horror fiction novel by American writer Richard Matheson. It was influential in the development of the zombie genre and in popularizing the concept of a worldwide apocalypse due to disease. The novel was a success and was adapted to film as The Last Man on Earth in 1964, as The Omega Man in 1971, and as I Am Legend in 2007, along with a direct-to-video 2007 production capitalizing on that film, I Am Omega. The novel was also the inspiration behind the 1968 film Night of the Living Dead.

ContentsEdit

[hide] *1 Plot

[edit] PlotEdit

The main character is Robert Neville, apparently the sole survivor of a pandemic whose symptoms resemble vampirism. It is implied that the pandemic was caused by a war, and that dust storms in the cities and an explosion in the mosquito population have resulted. The narrative details Neville's daily life in Los Angeles as he attempts to comprehend, research, and possibly cure the disease, to which he is immune. Neville's past is revealed through flashbacks.

After bouts of depression and alcoholism, Neville obtains books and other research materials from a library, and through painstaking research discovers the root of the vampiric disease in a strain of bacteria capable of infecting both deceased and living hosts.

After three years, Neville sees an apparently uninfected woman, Ruth, abroad in the daylight, and captures her. Having become accustomed to her, Neville becomes suspicious of Ruth and notices that she is upset when he speaks of killing vampires, on grounds that if her story of survival was true, she would have become hardened to the act. One night Neville is startled awake and finds Ruth about to leave. Suspicious, he questions her motives, but relates the trauma of his past, whereupon they comfort each other. Ruth reluctantly allows him a blood sample but knocks him senseless when he realizes she is infected. When he wakes, Neville discovers a note stating that the infected have slowly overcome their disease until they can spend short periods of time in sunlight and are attempting to rebuild society; but fear and hate Neville who has destroyed some of their people along with the true vampires (dead bodies animated by the germ) during his daytime excursions against the latter. Ruth warns Neville that her people will attempt to capture him, and that he should leave his house and escape; but Neville disregards Ruth's warning and is captured.

Neville wakes in a prison where he is visited by Ruth, who informs him that she is a ranking member of the new society but, unlike the others, does not resent him. She acknowledges the need for Neville's execution, and gives him pills, claiming they will "make it easier". Badly injured, Neville accepts his fate and asks Ruth not to let this society become heartless. Ruth kisses him and leaves.

Neville goes to his prison window and sees all the infected waiting for his execution. Judging by their reactions to the sight of him, he comprehends their point of view, having hitherto seen the destruction of the infected survivors as a moral imperative to be pursued for his own and mankind's survival, and realizes that even as vampires were legend in pre-infection times, he, a remnant of old humanity, is legend to the new race born of the infection. He therefore remarks to himself as he dies: "[I am] a new superstition entering the unassailable fortress of forever. I am legend".

[edit] Critical receptionEdit

As related from In Search of Wonder (1956), Damon Knight wrote:[1] The book is full of good ideas, every other one of which is immediately dropped and kicked out of sight. The characters are child's drawings, as blank-eyed and expressionless as the author himself in his back-cover photograph. The plot limps. All the same, the story could have been an admirable minor work in the tradition of Dracula, if only the author, or somebody, had not insisted on encumbering it with the year's most childish set of "scientific" rationalizations. Galaxy reviewer Groff Conklin described Legend as "a weird [and] rather slow-moving first novel . . . a horrid, violent, sometimes exciting but too often overdone tour de force."[2] Anthony Boucher praised the novel, saying "Matheson has added a new variant on the Last Man theme . . . and has given striking vigor to his invention by a forceful style of storytelling which derives from the best hard-boiled crime novels".[3]

Dan Schneider from International Writers Magazine: Book Review wrote in 2005:[4] ...despite having vampires in it, [the novel] is not a novel on vampires, nor even a horror nor sci-fi novel at all, in the deepest sense. Instead, it is perhaps the greatest novel written on human loneliness. It far surpasses Daniel DeFoe’s Robinson Crusoe in that regard. Its insights into what it is to be human go far beyond genre, and is all the more surprising because, having read his short stories - which range from competent but simplistic, to having classic Twilight Zone twists (he was a major contributor to the original TV series) there is nothing within those short stories that suggests the supreme majesty of the existential masterpiece I Am Legend was aborning. Psychologist Mikhail Lyubansky, Ph.D. noted the parallels Richard Matheson made between his vampiric race and African Americans.[5] This reading was first suggested by the literary scholar Kathy Davis Patterson in 2005[6] (and later mischaracterized).[7]

In 2012, the Horror Writers Association gave I Am Legend the special Vampire Novel of the Century Award.[8]

[edit] InfluenceEdit

Although Matheson calls the assailants in his novel "vampires", and though their condition is transmitted through blood and garlic is an apotropaic-like repellant, there is little similarity between them and vampires as developed by John William Polidori and his successors, which come straight out of the gothic novel tradition. I Am Legend influenced the zombie genre and popularized the concept of a worldwide zombie apocalypse. Although the idea has now become commonplace, a scientific origin for vampirism or zombies was fairly original when written.[9][dead link] According to Clasen:[7] "I Am Legend is the product of an anxious artistic mind working in an anxious cultural climate. However, it is also a playful take on an old archetype, the vampire (the reader is even treated to Neville’s reading and put-down of Bram Stoker's Dracula). Matheson goes to great lengths to rationalize or naturalize the vampire myth, transplanting the monster from the otherworldly realms of folklore and Victorian supernaturalism to the test tube of medical inquiry and rational causation. With I Am Legend, Matheson instituted the germ theory of vampirism, a take on the old archetype which has since been tackled by other writers (notably, Dan Simmons in Children of the Night from 1992)." Though referred to as "the first modern vampire novel",[10] it is as a novel of social theme that I Am Legend made a lasting impression on the cinematic zombie genre, by way of director George A. Romero, who acknowledged its influence and that of its 1964 adaptation, The Last Man on Earth, upon his seminal film Night of the Living Dead (1968).[11][12][13] Discussing the creation of Night of the Living Dead, Romero remarked, "I had written a short story, which I basically had ripped off from a Richard Matheson novel called I Am Legend."[14] Moreover, film critics noted similarities between Night of the Living Dead (1968) and The Last Man on Earth (1964).[15][16]

Stephen King said, "Books like I Am Legend were an inspiration to me".[17] Film critics noted that the British film 28 Days Later (2002) and its sequel 28 Weeks Later both feature a rabies-type plague ravaging Great Britain, analogous to I Am Legend.[18]

Although never acknowledged by Matheson, it is worth noting that Mary Shelley published a novel entitled The Last Man that told the story of a future world ravaged by a plague and the last solitary inhabitant.

[edit] AdaptationsEdit

[edit] ComicsEdit

The book has also been adapted into a comic book mini-series titled Richard Matheson's I Am Legend by Steve Niles and Elman Brown. It was published in 1991 by Eclipse Comics and collected into a trade paperback by IDW Publishing.[19][20][21]

An unrelated film tie in was released in 2007 as a one-shot I Am Legend: Awakening published in a San Diego Comic Con special by Vertigo.[22]

[edit] Radio playEdit

A nine-part abridged reading of the novel performed by Angus MacInnes was originally broadcast on BBC Radio 7 in December 2007.

[edit] FilmsEdit

I Am Legend has been adapted to a feature-length film four times (one which does not credit Matheson as the source).

[edit] The Last Man on EarthEdit

Main article: The Last Man on Earth (1964 film)In 1964, Vincent Price starred as Dr. Robert Morgan (rather than "Neville") in The Last Man on Earth (the original title of this Italian production was L'ultimo uomo della Terra). Matheson wrote the screenplay for this adaptation, but due to later rewrites did not wish his name to appear in the credits; as a result, Matheson is credited under the pseudonym "Logan Swanson."

[edit] The Omega ManEdit

Main article: The Omega ManIn 1971, a far different version appeared as The Omega Man, starring Charlton Heston (as Robert Neville) and Anthony Zerbe. Matheson had no influence on the screenplay for this film; it deviates from the novel's story in several ways, completely removing the vampiric elements except for sensitivity to light.

[edit] I Am LegendEdit

Main article: I Am Legend (film)Will Smith stars in the film directed by Francis Lawrence, released on December 14, 2007. This film also deviates from the original novel, but a rewrite in scenario was done to distance the project from the other zombie films inspired by I Am Legend.[23] The infection is caused by a virus originally intended to cure cancer. Some vampiric elements are retained, such as sensitivity to UV light and attraction to blood, though the infected are portrayed as creatures of limited intelligence. The film takes place in New York City in the years 2009 and 2012 rather than Los Angeles in 1975-1977.

[edit] I Am OmegaEdit

Main article: I Am OmegaMark Dacascos stars in this 2007 American feature length direct to video release. The film takes place in a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles, which is overrun by savage, cannibalistic humans who have degenerated into a feral subspecies as the result of a genetic virus. Once again, the adaption deviates from the original "vampiric" story and does not credit Matheson's original story.

In this adaption, 'Renchard' has been forced to live in a daily struggle for survival against the mutants. Renchard is contacted via webcam by Brianna (Jennifer Lee Wiggins), another survivor who was stranded in Los Angeles while trying to find Antioch, a community of survivors. Reluctantly, Renchard is forced to aid her and two others escape the city in which he has strategically placed time bombs, set to go off in 24 hours.

This film was rushed into production by The Asylum and released a month prior to the bigger budget Francis Lawrence project.Write the text of your article here!

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