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Friday, July 22, 2005

I am Legend

I Am Legend
Richard Matheson
I am Legend is the story of Robert Neville, the last man left alive on earth. But he’s not alone. The rest of the world has been transformed into vampires, and as far as only Neville knows, he is the last of his kind—a normal man, trying to survive against endless hordes of the undead. It’s a very well-written, creepy, and disturbing look into the psychology of survival, and one man’s struggle to understand a world that’s gone mad around him. I enjoyed it a great deal, overall. There’s a bit in towards the end, when a new character gets introduced, that I found a little less interesting, but overall, great stuff. Matheson has a very nice, tense, writing style that manages to pack a lot into a relatively short piece. The story has been adapted into a couple of movies, but I haven’t seen them.

The Orb edition of I am Legend has a number of Matheson’s other stories attached. I didn’t read all of them (one about a depressed, failed, writer was too much for me to take), but the one’s I did read were all good. Reminded me of Philip Dick, in the way he plays with reality, and people’s expectations. And again, I’m really impressed with Matheson’s ability to keep things short. The creepiest story of the one’s I read is only about three pages, but the punch line is so powerful, it makes whole story incredibly frightening. In a world of 800-page fantasy novels, it’s refreshing to read something short, sweet, and to the point.

Coming of the Horseclans

Coming of the Horseclans (Robert Adams)

Set in 27th century post-apocalyptic America, the Coming of the Horseclans tells the story of Milo of Morai, an immortal mutant from the 20thcentury, who has returned to the Horseclans to fulfill a prophecy and return them to their ancestral home. He leads them across a ruined America in battles with decadent city-dwellers, encounters more Undying (immortals like himself), and generally, has interesting adventures. The book is the first in along series, and ends on a bit of a cliffhanger.

This is great, fun, fiction. Deep? Not according to Adam’s own introduction:

The following tale is a fantasy, pure and simple. It is a flight of sheer imagination. It contains no hidden meanings, and none should be read into it; none of the sociological, economic, political, religious, or racial “messages” with which far too many modern novels abound are herein contained. The Coming of the Horseclans is, rather, intended for the enjoyment of any man or woman who has ever felt a twinge of that atavistic urge to draw a yard of sharp, flashing steel and with a wild war cry recklessly spur a vicious stallion against impossible odds.
And you know what? He’s right. Oh sure, I suppose I could try and analyze the crap out of this thing, and find socio-political meaning in it somewhere…but that would ruin the novel. If you’re going to read this (and I heartily recommend you do, especially if you’re a fan of pulp fiction), read it to enjoy it, not beat it to death with analysis. Enjoy the crazy, gory battles, the psychic cats and horses (Why are they psychic? Who cares?), who aid the Horseclans and the strange and intricate politics of the world. But don’t analyze it. You’ll miss the point.

Note: I think more fantasy writers, and writers in general, should read Adam’s introduction.There's something to be said for just telling a story, without worrying about the meaning of it all.