I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

Robert Neville lives alone on Cimarron Street, in a house that stands between two other houses that he had to burn down. Every day he repairs the damaged boards over his windows. Every night he bars his doors and waits for the vampires to gather outside, shrieking and calling for him to come out. They need his blood, and he is the last man alive.

I Am Legend is a story about the fall of civilisation, the survival and loneliness of one man, and his struggle to accept the new world. The story contains subjects such as pandemic infection, the rising of the dead, vampiric behaviour, group hysteria, and being besieged in your own home.

The author skilfully describes Robert Neville's boredom, hope, frustration, terror and rage. The book is relatively short, but it's well paced and it covers a lot of ground. Its protagonist investigates the creatures that haunt him, and the story offers biological and psychological causes for vampirism, stubbornly refusing to leave it to superstition. This makes the concept much more interesting, and takes the story to a more convincing end.

I Am Legend was written in 1954. Reading it, I got the impression that many later works of fiction owe quite a lot to Richard Matheson. Night Of The Living Dead features a horde of the newly-risen dead gathering outside an isolated house. 28 Days Later features the concept of a disease epidemic turning the population into mindless killers. Day Of The Dead features experimentation on the dead. Other movies that sprung to mind, for reasons that I can't reveal without spoiling the plot, were Dawn Of The Dead, and Blade. I was even reminded of an episode of The Outer Limits featuring Robert Patrick.

I Am Legend is an excellent novel. Though it could be described as a vampire story, it's really about a human suffering at the hands of a new world order. It should appeal to variety of readers.