I’ve realized something about my taste in books that are often categorized as “creature features.” You know the type: werewolves, vampires, zombies … monsters that have been represented in thousands of works, to the point that their very presence screams cliche despite even the best novelist’s attempts to do something “different.” But how different can you really be when treating a trope that is as familiar to people as Mickey Mouse? I struggle through these types of books, rarely adding one to my pile of reads and typically regretting any that I do add.
But I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson, breaks the mold.
This is the kind of vampire novel I enjoy, because it’s NOT about the vampires. This is a story about depression and loss and the tragedy of survival. The vampires in this story could have been swapped out with a host of other end-of-world take-overs and the story would remain the same. What’s more, Matheson challenges the traditional approach that plagues most vampire stories, asking questions like would a vampire who was Jewish or Islamic be afraid of a cross? In asking WHY we hold to these ideals when faced with the real thing provides an interesting case study.
The ending provides an unusual twist to what we might consider monsters, elevating the story and tying it in with its title in an unexpected yet quite brilliant way. A great example of how to approach a tired subject from a completely fresh and unique angle, this is a story any author attempting to write about vampires (or any other well-known monster) should study prior to penning a single word. Highly recommended.