I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson

Seven stars

Encouraged by my reading group to try this piece by Richard Matheson, I was soon pulled into the world of vampires and a massive plague (how fitting!) as this story unravelled. Robert Neville is in a battle against the world, or so it seems to him. His house surrounded by vampires, Neville must try to negotiate his way around in order to ensure he has the necessities to fend off the attack. Many of his friends and neighbours have succumbed to these blood sucking beasts, but there must be more to this existence. As time progresses, Neville turns scientific and discovers some of the microbiological aspects of the plague, as well as how it spreads from host to host. Neville uses this knowledge to work on some sort of defence, in hopes that it will allow him the chance to push back and take his life into his own hands. When another human crosses his path, he passes along all the information he has, hoping it is not a Trojan Horse sent to trick him. In his own mind, Robert Neville is a legend for cracking the code, though the reader may feel otherwise. A decent story, though by far nothing on the level of Stoker’s eerie storytelling.

When this book was assigned during the annual submission of tomes in early February 2020, I had never read Richard Matheson’s work. However, before trying this book, I did dabble into his world when I read a short piece by the author, which inspired Stephen King and one of his sons to use it as a launching pad for a more modern piece of horror. In this story, Matheson shows off some of his eerie side, though I did not get the scare factor I hoped to find. Robert Neville came across as quite level-headed, at least as much as he could be under the circumstances. His limited backstory came out through the pages of this book, though I was not connecting to him as much as I would have liked. Aspects of Neville’s personality shone through, particularly when he turned microbiologist and quasi-geneticist, but I was still slightly disinterested as the story progress. There are glimpses of other characters in this piece, which Matheson develops when the need arises. They help complement Neville, but do not leave a lasting impact for me. The premise of the piece was decent and I would have loved to feel more connected to the entire situation, but I found it was half horror and half cerebral, neither of which drew me in when I needed it most. I hope others find this was chilling and highly entertaining. I’ll just be sure to have some garlic on hand for Rounds 2 and 3 of COVID-19!

Kudos, Mr. Matheson, for this piece. Not something I’ll flock back to read again, but I could be in the minority.

This book fulfils the April 2020 requirement of the Mind the Bookshelf Gap Reading Challenge.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Duel, by Richard Matheson

Eight stars

Looking for something to fill a day-long gap before tackling a major reading project, I discovered this short story, which is said to have influenced one by Stephen King and Joe Hill. Looking to contrast them, I thought I would begin with this short piece by Richard Matheson. In a story that explores early road rage, Matheson pens a tale that will keep the reader off the road and thoroughly tied to this piece until its climactic end. Mann seems to be minding his business as he travels towards San Francisco. When he passes a transport truck late one morning, he thinks nothing of it. However, as can occur on the open highway, Mann and the driver of the truck seem to engage in a subconscious game of passing one another to gain speed and reach their final destinations. Mann seems to see this truck as more than a fellow vehicle on the road, particularly when the driver makes some choices that could be seen as dangerous to both vehicles. Choosing to confront the driver at one point—as the truck seems to have pulled off at a diner—Mann tries, but misses his chance. He’s not quite done with the spat and needs to see it through. Putting rubber back on the road, Mann seeks to make his statement, even though his mode of transportation is much smaller. With the highway before him, Mann seeks to ensure this transport truck knows it cannot bully him, which only leads to more trouble for both vehicles involved. A great story that gets the blood pumping and has me thinking of all the highway driving I do for work. Recommended to those who love short stories with a twist, as well as those who might (like me) want to contrast this with the King/Hill piece.

I had never read any Richard Matheson before this story, though my reading group chose one of his standalone pieces to try this coming year. This was a wonderful introduction to him and all that he has to offer. By no means an expert—but surely a fan—I could see some King-esque themes in this piece (though I admit, Matheson penned this story first, so perhaps it is the other way around), which got my heart pumping as I sought to see what Mann would do. Mann seems like your typical guy who is trying to get from A to B without issue, but is perturbed when someone or something gets in his way. Perhaps early 1970s road rage, where the driver of a small vehicle seeks to puff out his chest against a massive transport truck. Mann does all he can to end the feud, but seems to forget the size difference as he loses focus of his intended destination. The story flew by and I found myself picturing these two vehicles playing a form of chicken with each other, as Matheson depicts their cumulative race to overcome the other. By the end, there is a form of resolution, though I am not sure it is what the reader would expect at first glance. Now that I have this foundational piece done, I will have to see how the King/Hill duo seek to spin it in their own version of pavement horror.

Kudos, Mr. Matheson, for a great piece to get my mind (and two vehicles) racing. I will be back for more short stories, as well as that full-length book!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons