Friday, 25 September 2009
Last Man On Earth
Finished reading I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. It’s a SF masterwork, apparently, number two in the set. I shall now have to purchase the remaining 72 novels in order to complete my collection.
It was great. Totally recommend it. Scary, exciting, moving. It’s been made into three movies – The Last Man On Earth, which I haven’t seen, The Omega Man with Charlton Hestons (who despite being a right-wing gun-freak produced three exceptional ecologically-aware movies in the 70’s) and I Am Wicky Wicky Wa Wa with Will Smith, which I also haven’t seen. It’s also got pretty much the same premise as 28 Days Later; although in the novel, the bad guys are more vampires than zombies, they’re fast-moving and savage but also have all the vampire traits of being afraid of garlic etc.
Three interesting things about the novel. Firstly, it has a much more ingenious and original twist ending than any of the movies. Secondly, it treats the whole vampire business with hard science-fiction vigour, finding psuedo-scientific explanations for life after death, photophobia and so on – whilst amusingly addressing the question of whether a Jewish vampire would be afraid of a cross.
The third interesting thing as that, as a novel, it can afford to concentrate much more on the psychological effects of finding yourself the last man on Earth surrounded by bloodthirsty monsters; exploring the grief, the alienation, the loneliness and so on.
Because it was written in the 50’s, this is an apocalypse due to nuclear testing (ISTR The Day Of The Triffids gives a similar explanation for the blindness). Nuclear oblivion was understandably a pressing concern back then in a way that it isn’t now – which isn’t necessarily a good thing, as the actual threat hasn’t gone away, we’ve just got used to it.