As much as I’m racing ahead with reading – already being halfway through The Purple Cloud, March’s choice – I seem to be falling behind with actually posting about it. Not to worry though; a game of catch-up will soon be in order!
Everybody loves a good zombie movie. Our unnatural adoration for the undead has infected not just the Box Office, with the occasional victory in films like Dawn of the Dead (2004) and World War Z (2013), but the ever-evolving Gaming scene too.
As I write I’m watching C on The Last of Us, for what he hopes will be the final play for the Platinum, and gearing up for the jump back into the bloody fray myself. But more on that later.
To my mind, good zombie novels seem to be thinner on the ground than their screen media counterparts, or at least so well hidden that some only surface following the hype from their TV adaptations. For instance, I hadn’t realised World War Z was a novel before hitting the big screen, nor that Robert Kirkman had already published around sixty issues of his comic series, The Walking Dead by the time it was first released to TV.
It’s with this idea in mind, that good zombie novels are rather well-hidden, that I drag February’s pick into the search light; I am Legend by Richard Matheson. For anyone who’s heard of or read the book, you’re probably thinking ‘but Wini, the novel featured vampires as the so-called antagonists– not zombies’, and you’d be right. But it may interest you to know that, despite being labelled as Vampire Novel of the Century in 2012, Matheson’s novel was influential in the development of the Zombie genre thereafter, helping to popularise the concept of a worldwide apocalypse caused by disease. Perhaps this was why the monsters introduced in its 2007 adaptation became a hybrid of the two – the weakness to sun and bloodlust of a vampire; retaining the horrific voice and greyish-gaunt appearance of modern zombies.
Unfortunately, while my admiration for the film seemed well-placed on its release, reading the novel resulted in a slight loss of love for it. The differences between the two are quite stark. While one focuses solely on the survival of a lone man, with plenty of detail on how he fortifies and maintains his security, from scratch; the other survivor already has everything he needs to stay safe and find a cure, all from his cushy-by-contrast base. Not a great-sounding comparison, I’ll be honest, though I could see how running time might not allow for too many elements.
The truth is, I found the novel to have a more realistic storyline, better shock-horror moments and greater emphasis on the damaging psychological implications of spending years alone. Don’t get me wrong, the film had a lot of that too, but it lost brownie points for shirking the alternate ending that explains the ‘butterfly effect’, and ultimately makes more sense. If you’ve not seen it, find it Here.
With its compact length, I found the novel to be another great one to be starting out with. The grungy setting and down-to-earth language makes the reading effortless, so that by the time I’d thought to pace myself, it was too late; I’d read half of it already. The methodical step-by-step approach to Neville’s survival was more interesting to find out than anticipated, and read similarly to a how-to guide for existing in an apocalypse.
A zombie junkie since watching 28 Days Later solo, reading this book has opened a new can of worms for me, one which will be followed up, perhaps soon. For anyone else interested in reading into the roots of a worldwide zombie infection, I Am Legend is one of the ways to go.
Here’s the part where I ask what you think. Having been bitten by the bug, so to speak, I’d love to know any zombie or apocalypse novels you’d recommend! Thanks for reading.