First and foremost, this isn’t a novel about vampires so much as it is a novel about loneliness. Robert Neville is isolated for years without any outside contact as the vampire hoard lurked outside his door. The shifts in his mood between apathy, anger, depression, desperate hope, and at times seeming madness and cruelty made his character feel real and believable. The chapter about the dog was so human it was painful.
I thought that Neville’s exploration and experimentation in order to understand what the vampires were exactly and how the world was taken so swiftly was interesting. I appreciated the scientific elements that tried to explain well established tropes about vampires, either explaining how they could be possible or separating the ones that were no more than superstition. Many of the assumptions made in the novel were actually reasonable. The experiments that he carried out on those afflicted with vampirism, both alive and dead, made him a monster. The glee with which he executed or experimented on vampires showed his devolution from human to something else.
“Full circle. A new terror born in death, a new superstition entering the unassailable fortress of forever. I am legend.”
This is where the novel hits kind of a tail spin. I get where the author is going with the evolution of humanity and how moral Neville’s thirst for knowledge and understanding was, but I feel like the novel got a little bit contrived around the end. Most of the novel was spent wondering where it was going, seeming just a bit confused and lacking any real direction. This made the second half of the novel feel forced and left me feeling like I had whiplash.
Even so, I Am Legend stands as a classic because it was influential in the development of the zombie genre and the concept of a world wide apocalypse caused by the spread of disease and I can completely understand why. Even though the affliction is officially branded vampirism and explains vampire lore, the creatures in the novel are different from the types of vampires one is used to from other works of fiction and I found it refreshing.
Robert Neville has witnessed the end of the world. The entire population has been obliterated by a vampire virus. Somehow, Neville survived. He must now struggle to make sense of everything that has happened and learn to protect himself against the vampires who hunt him constantly. He must, because perhaps there is nothing else human left.