MEMPHIS READS: I AM LEGEND by Richard Matheson

Sara reviews I AM LEGEND by Richard Matheson, RXR Books,1954.

Robert Neville is an alcoholic, and given the circumstances, it’s easy to see why. A plague has swept over the Earth, wiping out almost all of humanity. Left behind, in the place of his neighbors, his wife and daughter, and his old friend Ben Cortman, are living corpses, sick shadows of the people he used to know.


The pale creatures adhere to the stereotypes, staying indoors when the sun is out, avoiding garlic and crosses and wooden stakes. At night, they crowd around Robert Neville’s lawn, jeering, taunting, and begging him to come outside.

This book is a classic, having inspired several apocalyptic movies, most recently the 2007 thriller by the same name, starring Will Smith. While there are differences between the book and the movie, one thing they share is edge-of-your-seat suspense. It seems like every chapter of this novel ends on a cliffhanger. Just when things couldn’t possibly get worse for the last man on Earth, he makes some small mistake, and the consequences are gruesome.

You may find yourself relating to Neville’s bouts of existential dread as we ride out this time of social isolation. The story is pretty dark, but at the very least, you do get to see some vampire-takedowns, which may be cathartic for those of us wishing this pandemic was something physical we could fight. An ebook version of the novel can be found in our digital collection.