I “read” the novel I Am Legend by Richard Matheson yesterday. Well, I didn’t really “read” it if reading means flipping pages and reading words. I listened to its audio book. (What would be a better verb for “reading” an audio book? I listened to I Am Legend?)
At 4 hours, I Am Legend was a quick, pleasant read. The novel was better than the movie in several ways: the psychologically vivid and believable monologues and behavior, the progressing effect of isolation on Robert Neville, and the much, much better ending, which gives “I Am Legend” its meaning in the first place.
The narrator speaks out Robert’s thoughts constantly, presenting a very credible development of his thoughts, his doubting and arguing with himself, his delight and despair. It made Robert’s actions and decisions conspicuous and understandable. We can even feel sorry for him as he misses important clues in his thought process, and find his mistakes costing him later. There’s no “why didn’t he do this, why didn’t he see that” in the novel.
It was also fun as a science student to see him, who’s not scientifically trained, going to the library and reading about physiology and microbiology and figuring out how to work a microscope to find the cause of the vampirism: bacteria. And again, his struggles with himself trying to understand the disease, hindered by his lack of expertise as well as the psychological damage he suffered through.
The author was unafraid to meticulously describe every detail when it’s relevant to the plot and atmosphere, and skip months or even years at a time when the point has gotten across and it was time to move onto the next phase of the story.
* * *
I’m now listening to Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, which was stupendously difficult and uniquely annoying. He repeats himself so often, dives into so much bloody detail, and jumps all over so many places, that I had a hard time following the story at all. I was so thoroughly confused I first thought it was a historic novel, then I thought it was a zombie horror flick, then perhaps fuzzy family story, and now I’ve given up trying to categorize this thing.
Oh man, am I only at the literary level of I Am Legend? 😦