"I am legend". These words make me shudder. But if you have only seen that Will Smith movie that went 180 degrees on the book's message, the soul-crushing impact of these words will be lost on you.That makes me sad...To quote Stephen King, "I think the author who influenced me the most as a writer was Richard Matheson." This was enough of a recommendation for me to go and dig up this book. And it's great."Full circle. A new terror born in death, a new superstition entering the unassailable fortress of forever. I am legend.” Robert Neville, as you may already know from the countless cinematic adaptations of the story, seems to be a sole survivor of a vampirism-like pandemic. (The old-fashioned burn-in-the-sunlight stake-through-the-heart vampirism, none of that newfangled emo sparkliness.) Neville stakes vampires by day, and researches the cause of the plague in his spare time. The long segments of the story are devoted to the relentless monotony of his scientific pursuit of the vampirism mystery - which he does figure out, by the way. And it's quite neat.We witness the years of deep depression, alcoholism, and the suffocating isolation, loneliness and despair. Then one day he meets Ruth who may be another survivor of the pandemic. And that's where any similarities to the movie stop, and the story becomes less of a lone-hero-tale and more of the soul-crushing-hopeless-revelation-tale. "And suddenly he thought, I'm the abnormal one now. Normalcy was a majority concept, the standard of many and not the standard of just one man."The story of the lone righteous hero, the brave vampire hunter has a sure guaranteed readers' appeal (I, for instance, adore Stephen King's Salem's Lot). Matheson, however, brilliantly decides to take the road less traveled and turns the legend on its head. He introduces an unexpected perspective that forces the protagonist and the reader look at things in a new - and shocking - light. After all, the line between a hero and a horror is very thin, and usually very subjectively drawn.This is not a traditional vampire story in any shape or form. There is no supernatural element - unless you think so of germs. Instead it involves evolution - of the hero and the monsters alike, and not in the ways that are comforting to the reader. The horror lies in its unsettling revelations about the human nature. It is also a story in which happy ending is impossible by default - which Hollywood, of course, promptly 'fixes'. At least Will Smith got a blockbuster out of the butchered story. Given the number of the cinematic adaptations of this book, it continues to fascinate Hollywood. I'm just waiting for the day when they make one that actually captures the intended impact of Matheson's story.-------------------------------------------------------------------------The writing is a bit dry, the science sections drag on a bit, and the protagonist is rather unlikable, but I forgive all this for the punch-in-the-gut impact the story had on me. 4 stars.