Book Review: I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

I am Legend by Richard MathesonAs far as I remembered, I’d seen (and very much enjoyed) the movie of this book, so I was keen to read it. It turns out, the book is not much like the movie I’ve seen. The initial few chapters could  be the same as the beginning of the movie, but after that?

However, according to the Internet Movie Database it is the same movie, but it seems to be only very loosely based on the book. The name of the main character is the same in both book and movie (played by Will Smith), the situation he is in is the same, but after that, it diverges quite a bit.

Not a problem: I enjoyed the movie AND I enjoyed the book!

I Am Legend: What it is about

Robert Neville is probably the last living human on earth. After a virus has infected most of the population, they have turned into vampires who are after his blood. He lives in his family home, boarded up so the vampires can’t get in and during the day, when the vampires are comatose, he goes out to find food, kill as many vampires as he can find, and generally gather items that he needs to make his life as best as it can be.

The story takes place between January 1976 and January 1979. It is not a continuous story, because after learning how Robert is getting on at a particular moment (several days or weeks), we then move forward in time to the next moment that is being focused on.

At some point, Robert starts to spend a lot of time on trying to find a vaccine against the virus. He experiments on vampires that are asleep during the day but there are so many what-if’s and why’s that he finds it incredibly hard to make sense of his data. Slowly he gets closer to the solution.

Meanwhile, the vampires aren’t giving up, and it’s only a matter of time before they will get him. Unless Robert can fabricate a vaccine that will work against them.

I Am Legend: What I thought

I lapped it up, most of the book. I loved the story, how Robert is keeping himself alive, how he’s trying to work on a vaccine, the world he was living in. Until near the end. The set up of the story was great, the middle was good, too, but the ending was a little too coincidental and sudden. I think we could have done with a little bit more information about the situation in the world at that particular time. If that sounds cryptic: that’s fine! I would not want to give away the story.

I love post-apocalyptic stories: the world is changed and people are trying to survive for better or worse. A good post-apocalyptic story is interesting when the new world is described in detail and you can feel that the author has thought about it to a great extend so that everything makes sense and fits together well.

In this case, there was some world-building but it wasn’t quite clear what the situation was when Robert was cut off of information about the world (i.e., radio and television no longer working). Were there pockets of people still living out there? What about other countries? Why didn’t anyone set up a system so survivors could contact each other, etc.

On the other hand, the “world-building” inside Robert’s house and life was comprehensive. It was clear how he went through each day and how he managed to keep electricity, water and food stuffs. His ideas about the virus and how it might be beaten were also comprehensive and well thought-out.

I loved reading this book and it was a real pity it’s so short! If you’ve enjoyed the movie: this is nothing like the book, so do read the book if you haven’t done so yet.

Rating: 4.5 stars

I read this in: English, the original language

Number of pages: 164

First published: 1954

Genre: science fiction, dystopia

Extra: I read this for the Magical March Challenge by Roof Beam Reader

Magical March Challenge

About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

13 Responses to Book Review: I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

  1. nfmgirl says:

    I’ve had this book sitting on my TBR shelf. I also loved the movie and decided I’d like to read the book. I wondered how much the book would differ from the movie. Glad to hear that you liked both!

  2. JoV says:

    I heard so much about the book and since it’s thin I do want to read it one day. The premise is bleak so need to make sure I’m ready for it. Thanks for the review!

  3. Leslie says:

    A friend of mine recommended the book and did mention it was a bit different from the movie. I did see the movie and liked it. So of course I picked up a copy of the book but haven’t read it yet. I think after reading your take on it I’ll like it too.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Leslie, it’s thin enough that it doesn’t take a lot from your normal reading time. A few coffee breaks in the garden is all it takes. As long as it’s light outside (at dusk the vampires come…).

  4. I loved both the book and film version (the new one, anyway, I think there’s an older version as well–The Omega Man?) of this and remember how utterly claustrophobic and terrifying this book felt. Very chilling. I’m so glad you enjoyed it. 🙂

    • Leeswammes says:

      Stephanie, I didn’t know there was an older film – I wonder if that is closer to the book. The new one just took the basic idea and then changed a lot of it.

      It’s very chilling indeed!

  5. Leeswammes says:

    Gary of The Parrish Lantern said: “Seen the movie, but not read the book, but it does sound appealing, so will check it out.” (

    • Leeswammes says:

      Gary, the movie doesn’t spoil much for the book, as they are so different. I love these 1950s post-apocalyptic novels! Another favorite of mine is The Crysalids by John Wyndham.

  6. I have had this on my wishlist for ages – I really must read it now.

  7. Chinoiseries says:

    I agree with you that the world-building and Robert’s life and ideas were comprehensive. If only he had been more likeable….?

  8. I2Q says:

    Dear Leeswammes,

    I just finished reading Richard Matheson´s masterpiece “I Am Legend” and found it fantastic. It was written in 1954 and I can see why it has influenced so many books and films even today.

    A review is set to come out on my blog tomorrow. Feel free to read my blog but definitely read “I Am Legend”.


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