At first, it is not clear to the reader what we are dealing with – vampires? zombies? merely the deranged left over few humans that survived some sort of plague? I’ll leave it up to you to read it and make up your own mind. This is one of the things I really enjoyed about the book – it didn’t follow any solid fantasy/horror trope. Instead, Robert Neville spends quality time at the local library digging up science texts, learning how a virus or bacteria could spread through out humanity, why the infected need sleep during the day, why garlic repels them. Indeed, Richard Matheson builds science into this horror story, which makes it all the more frightening in the end.
I went back and forth on liking Robert Neville. He isn’t the brightest of the bunch. Initially he seems a decent sort – missing his family and friends, questioning his own sanity, feeling conflicted about hunting and disposing of the ‘monsters’ by day. He’s also obsessed with sex. One comment had me rolling my eyes a bit – something along the lines about how it would be worse to die a virgin than to become one of the blood-needy monsters that prowl around his house at night. Really? Sigh…. But, on the other hand, it goes to show his loneliness and his possible slow slip into depravity.
Yet Robert rallies, digs into his science and experiments, and the second half of the book was even more interesting than the beginning. I began to feel for Robert and his lonely plight, his messed up purpose in life, his questions of whether or not he was the only uninfected human left alive. The ending was not what I expected at all, but I found it very fitting, satisfying, and a good explanation of the title.
The narrator put all his feeling into Robert Neville – the anguish, frustration, surprise, tender loneliness truly came through. The narrator was a perfect fit for this characters.