I Am Legend and Mystic River

Back in college I had a friend who would reference Richard Matheson's I Am Legend whenever the topic of vampire and other horror books would come up. Through him I learned about the plot and character of the book and, since I wasn't into vampire books then, I never got around to reading it. Nine years later, I'm still not into vampire books but since I'e seen the trailer for the new I Am Legend move staring Will Smith -- something I really want to see -- I decided to pick up a copy of the book at the store.

The story itself is only 160 some odd pages -- much shorter than I thought it would be. The writing is crisp and clear and took only about two hours to read. Since Matheson was one of the early science fiction/horror pioneers it reads like something from an earlier generation. But it's still a wildly imaginative story and one that had me going all the way until the last page.

For those who don't know the general plot of the book, it centers on a character named Robert Neville who is apparently the last human on the planet. The rest of humanity has been consumed by a virus that has changed them all into vampires. Neville spends his nights inside his vampire-proof house while the undead creatures roam around his house attempting to find a way in. During the day scavenges for supplies, hunts and kills sleeping vampires, and looks for any other human survivors.

The most interesting part of the story for me was watching how Neville adapts to being the last man on earth and how he learns to cope with being alone so that he won't go insane and then what happens when sitting on the porch of an empty house he sees a beautiful young woman running through an empty field in his direction.

I'm curious to see what adaptations they'll make to the movie. The most obvious change from the promos is that the story takes place in New York instead of Los Angeles and it looks like they've spiced up the action scenes with the vampires quite a bit so it certainly looks like a very fun movie to watch.

My only request is that they have a better ending than the books. You know, one where Neville comes out on top. Those who have read the book will know what I'm talking about.


It's rare that I read a book a second time only to enjoy it more than I did the first time around. This week I picked up Mystic River after not having read it in about four years. (It was the best book I read back in 2003.) Part of the reason it took me so long to pick it up again was that I thought the Clint Eastwood movie version of the book was plain awful. I thought that the screenwriter and Eastwood failed to capture the relationship that the three main characters -- Jimmy Marcus, Sean Devine, and Dave Boyle -- had as kids and how that affected their actions 20 years later. Thankfully instead of watching Eastwood inept adaptation, I can always return to the novel and get that experience again.

Dennis Lehane is a good writer. I'm three books into his Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro detective book and have liked what I've read so far. However, I think Mystic River beats the pants off the other books I've read so far because the characters are so much more real and compelling.

Jimmy Marcus is an ex-convict who's spent the last 15 years trying live within the law. Then his daughter, Katie, is murdered the night before her sister's first communion and his world that he's built up so carefully suddenly falls apart and he finds himself being torn between building it up again or going down the wrong side of the tracks again.

Sean Devine is a homicide detective for the state police and Katie's murder happens to land on his desk. Despite a decent upbringing and being a top-notch cop, His life is in shambles. His wife had and affair and left him but still calls on occasion even though she says nothing to him when he answers. He feels the weight of the world on his shoulders and all he really wants is his wife to come home.

And then there's Dave Boyle who's just a shell of a human being after being abducted by child molesters right in front of Jimmy and Sean when they were kids. He's married and manages to eek out a decent life for himself and his family until he comes home one night unexpectedly with blood all over his clothes and the rage and anger of what happened to him all those years ago is finally boiling to the surface.

Mystic River isn't a make your day brighter book. The neighborhoods and general atmosphere of the book isn't pretty. Everyone and everything in the book seems to have the crapped kicked out of them at one point or another. But therein lies what makes Mystic River such a good read is that it's really a story about how characters react to the different tragedies that shape their lives. Some make good decisions, other bad ones but all the characters have things we like about them and things we don't. The're very human, very believable, and very compelling -- even more so the second time around.

Add those characters to a sad but intriguing plot and you have one heck of a book.