You know, hearing that "I Am Legend" was voted the Vampire Novel of the Century
in the 2011 Bram Stoker Awards, and reading various columns on Tor.com
about how brilliant and scary and inspirational the book is.... I was not expecting to be both completely bored and utterly annoyed.
I mean, I can see where it would have been revolutionary in the 1950s, in terms of the overall story and the
detailed explanations of "Oh, it's a GERM and this is how it works, and after several years of working on the theory, this perfectly ordinary Caucasian male has figured it out!" And I can see where the ending would have been a real shock, in the days before, well, all the works inspired by "I Am Legend."
But I read it, and... okay, it's partly that I disliked the main character so
intensely, because he's set in the 1970s, but he's so very much the product of 1950s male-authored sci-fi, the Last (White) Man Remaining after the Cold War-inspired apocalypse, living in a boarded-up house, trying to cope, probably going somewhat nuts along the way, etc. And that's personal, that's just not a type of character who I find engaging. Except that I also found the writing and the story to be excruciatingly boring-- there's amazingly little action, and very little "vampire" in what is supposed to be a vampire story, and the extended faux-science did nothing for me.
Yes, fine, his former friend and neighbor is the possible-leader of the local vampires, but doesn't show up in any significant way in either the past or present, and there are the ubiquitous tragic flashbacks to the tragic death of his wife and daughter (because two tragically dead females is way more tragical than a wife and son dying when the child doesn't get to actually do anything or be active in any way....). And there is an extended Tragical Last Dog, who is apparently there just to be additionally tragic.
The thing is.... okay, he is boring, and the plot is boring, and the main ideas are boring, and the gender roles are freaking infuriating
. Because in the beginning there are apparently Sexy Naked Vampire Ladies trying to lure him outside (....), and he's constantly thinking about them (because he is a red-blooded American male), and then there is the Requisite Last Woman, who is part helpless and part femme fatale and naturally secretly a vampire spy. Add that to the Helpless Deceased Females, and.... yeah, not going to do anything for me.
So, I am in a bit of a quandry, because of course between "Best Vampire Novel of the 20th Century" AND numerous film versions inspired by it, AND inspiration for assorted zombie stories(which I can see much more than vampires, frankly), I feel like I should ask my vampire class students to, you know, read it. And it is definitely a different take on vampires and vampirism and so on, and I could tie the gender issues to gender roles and issues in the other stuff we are reading and watching...
.... but I can't help but feel that the students will respond to it by becoming pretty much zombified themselves.