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Book 1

  1. Matheson, Richard — I Am Legend (161 pages)

Page count: 161.

This wasn't supposed to be #1 on my list for 2008. In fact, had my holiday gone as planned, this would have been #38 or #39 for 2007. But I didn't get as much reading done on my flights or in the US as I'd planned, and then I went and left Beauty in a restaurant in Cambridge (and haven't been able to find a copy in any library or bookstore in the UK, especially frustrating since I was within about 80 pages or so from the end), so I Am Legend slipped to #1 by default.

I hadn't really intended to read I Am Legend this time of year. I had been thinking for a couple of years that this would make good Halloween reading. But then the movie came out and I wanted to see it, but no way was I going to see the movie before reading the book! I finished the book in just a couple of days on Wednesday and saw the movie on Thursday.

What a fantastic book! I must say I was put off a bit by the way the book was marketed, but it is so universally praised I felt I must pick it up at some point. I'm glad I did. It's not at all what I expected. I Am Legend was being marketed (at least here in the UK before the movie was being talked about) as an action-packed horror story where the hero valiantly struggles against vampires at every turn. Instead, it was a marvellously crafted, intelligent, thought-provoking, dystopian psychological study reminiscent of Earth Abides.

The movie, on the other hand…. Well, I often wonder why Hollywood bothers to adapt books into movies if the film they're going to make is completely different. The only similarity, really, is that both feature one Robert Neville as a human survivor of some epidemic, besieged by blood-thirsty creatures that come out only at night. The movie makes no reference to vampires or biological adaptation or new societies and changes other essential elements of the story in small but critical ways. I am all for making changes in a movie adaptation as long as the book's integrity is respected (The War of the Worlds, The Lord of the Rings, The Virgin Suicides), but I cannot stand it when Hollywood changes the story significantly enough that the movie shouldn't bear the same name.

And why, oh why, does Hollywood feel the need to give I Am Legend a happy ending??? Let's completely pervert the meaning of the title by taking away Matheson's deliciously ironic ending and sticking in a vapid, Marley-enhanced, feel-good twist that completely undermines one of the central themes of the story!

I had No Country for Old Men with me at the theater, as I want to see that movie, too. Much to my chagrin, they showed a preview for it; fortunately, most of the scenes shown were from the first few chapters which I'd already read, but they showed just enough to annoy me. However, the preview gave me the impression that this movie respects the integrity of the book, unlike I Am Legend.

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