Tag Archives: horror

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

I Am Legend by Richard MathesonI first became aware of this novel in 2000 when, instead of doing my assignment on Jane Austen, I was listening to a CD interview and story reading with Stephen King. In which he was asked who some of his influences were in the author world, and he announced that he was very much a fan in of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend.

When he described the novel it sounded very much like something I would enjoy and I made a mental note to read it one day, perhaps after I graduated uni and could read again for pleasure, rather than pushing forward with my English, Creative Writing and Journalism degree.

Fast forward to 2007, I remember being in the cinema and seeing a preview for the latest movie adaptation of I Am Legend and before the title showed up I had thought to myself ‘this story line seems oddly familiar’ and went back later to check that the novel I had remembered wanting to read was of the same title. It was.

I’ve always put off seeing the movie, mostly because I’m not a Will Smith fan, and also because I wanted to read the story without bias. Now that I have I’m curious to see how the movie portrays the book. Poorly, it seems from the reviews, but I still plan to make up my own mind.

It’s only taken me twelve years to get my hands on the book, but I’ve finally read it (lesson here, kids, always keep a ‘to read’ list – very handy). I really loved this story, it’s a novella rather than a novel, though Matheson’s book does contain other horror stories, much shorter but with the same isolated subtext as I Am Legend.

The story is interesting as our protagonist, Robert Neville, isn’t a hero, but is merely surviving and his existence almost seems useless and without purpose. We also learn very little about Neville before the plague, but are thrown nuggets of information through his memories which still leave me unsatisfied. But I guess the essence of true horror is not the story of the all-American overcoming all odds, but being forced to accept what has become and learning to deal with it.

Definitely worth giving this story 5 pints of blood.

Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

Book review:

In Stephen King’s afterword he writes, ‘The stories in this book are harsh. You may have found them hard to read in places.’ In reading Full Dark, No Stars I found myself putting the book down many times due to the gritty nature of it’s descriptive actions. The queasy feeling would stay with me sometimes long after I’d gone to bed as I imagined all the ways I didn’t want to die.

A collection of short stories, and possibly some of King’s most disturbing writing, Full Dark, No Stars binds together four separate stories which manage to frighten us most because each one could be possible.

Unlike King’s history of threading together the real and unreal until you’re not sure when you’ve crossed over, this collection is frightening purely because such incidents and people exist in our world every day. It’s not impossible to believe these characters and crimes are real and most likely based on real events.

‘1992’ is a story of Wilfred Leland James who is writing his confession to committing a murder. A man who appears callous in the beginning, leaving this reviewer with little sympathy towards his situation, increasingly descends into his own living hell through a series of chain reactions triggered by his crime. Normally irritated by stories set on a farm, due to the need of the writer to describe how manual labour takes place at every turn, I found ‘1922’ moved along at a steady pace with each sentence earning its place upon the page.

The second story in the collection, ‘Big Driver’, is about a mystery writer (and let’s be honest, it just wouldn’t be a Stephen King novel if there wasn’t at least one writer character) who survives a horrifying encounter when she gets a flat tyre alongside an empty highway. We’re all familiar with how a scene like this plays out, however the reaction of this somewhat mousy woman is far from cliché. ‘Big Driver’ delivers an unexpected twist, a twist that left me arguing with its protagonist to deal with her situation in a different way.

While the least gruesome in detail and horror of all the stories, ‘Fair Extension’ was by far the one I liked least. The story is of a middle-aged man who has been diagnosed with cancer and makes a deal with a jinn-like man to extend his life. Like all such deals, this bargain comes at a cost. Unfortunately, this character seems only to flourish as the story continues with little regard for the cost that balances out his new good fortune. ‘Fair Extension’ ends without character growth or remorse and because of this it left me cold. I can fairly say I hated the story.

Finally, ‘A Good Marriage’ is the last story in the book, possibly the most predictable of all four, yet one I enjoyed the most. Where King failed to bring us justice in the first three, I felt the final story brought me the closure I was looking for. A wife discovers a terrible secret about her husband and realises he has kept this secret the entire length of their marriage. This story opens all the questions of how well do we really know anyone, even those closest to us? It sheds light on how easily terrible things can go on without our even knowing.

It’s true, King is the master of bringing our fears to the surface, and he normally succeeds in this by bringing in his much-patented supernatural creature and setting it free amongst our every day environment, tricking our minds into believing it could be true. He plays on the symbolism we see in those non-human beings. But in this book, King only writes those things we read about every day on the news and doesn’t have to stretch our imaginations too far to scare us, because these types of events are happening all the time.

Normally we have the convenience of ignoring that which we don’t want to see by turning off the TV, but King brings those brushed aside situations and places it directly in front of us in the form of Full Dark, No Stars, forcing us to think about what elements and reactions really sit within the human form.

I have painted a dark review, but King has done it again and brought the world a powerfully faultless and cleverly spun read. If you are not a Stephen King or dark story fan, I’d say skip this book. But if you, like me, secretly enjoy being a little bit frightened and occasionally like looking into the darkness of the human soul you will find this to be one of his best collections.

Review published by Media/Culture Words.