Review of I Am Legend and Other Stories by Richard Matheson

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - I Am Legend by Richard MathesonI Am Legend
By Richard Matheson; Read by Robertson Dean and Yuri Rasovsky
10 CDs – Approx. 11 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2007
ISBN: 9781433203299
Themes: / Science Fiction / Horror / Vampires / Noir / Science /

“Come out Neville!”

Would it be fair to say that I Am Legend is one of the greatest novels of the 20th century? No, I personally wouldn’t argue that. I’d argue that instead it is one of the greatest novels of all time. The very first review on SFFaudio was an out of print audiobook from Books On Tape. I bought it on eBay in 2003, I haven’t seen it for sale since. It was a “double novel” audiobook entitled I Am Legend / The Shrinking Man two of Richard Matheson most famous works. As I said in that review, “I Am Legend is one of the best audiobooks I’ve ever listened to.” That same recommendation goes for this edition. The novel alone is worth killing for. If you’re a fan of Matheson, the included short story collection is a bonus.

I Am Legend is a classic vampire story with the standard man against nature, man against himself themes. It is the psychological journey, of Robert Neville, is the very last man on Earth. Every night male vampires pelt his suburban Los Angeles home with rocks and the female vampires expose their nakedness to him – these, his former neighbors – lust for his blood. During daylight hours, Neville repairs the damage to his home, restocks his larder, and his bar, with canned foods, and whiskey. He needs the whiskey, for his other tasks are to suppress the lustful desires he has. He has a deadly lonliness within him. He’s found the only way to keep himself from going mad is to keep busy, drink heavily and try not to think about what’s happening outside his home at night. Since the plague hit, and his wife died, Neville has had to learn the lathe, for turning stakes, and become a microbiologist – he’s used all sorts of techniques to keep the vampires at bay – and he’s curious as to why some work and some don’t. Garlic works, but mirrors don’t. Holy water doesn’t, but crosses do, at least sometimes. It’s enough of a puzzle to turn an everyman into an experimental scientist – and that journey of science, and the lessons of about the world Neville learns along the way are rewarded in what I can only describe as the best ending to a novel ever.

Some will argue that I Am Legend is one of the greatest novels of the 20th century. I’d argue that it is one of the greatest novels of all time. But that said, I’d still argue that Richard Matheson is a very limited writer. He can’t seem to tell more than one kind of story. As I learned from the ten short stories that round out the later discs of this audiobook, (and my previous experience reading The Shrinking Man), breadth of storytelling is not Matheson’s strength. His strength in I Am Legend is the perfect storm of the “psychology,” “science fiction”, and “noir.” In his other works Matheson doesn’t hold all three, (or any other two) in such a perfect molecular bond. The elements that make up I Am Legend play-out absolutely perfectly. But in the later horror stories of this collection, written between the early 1950s and the late 1980s the psychological element is always present, but that’s about all. Stories included are:

Buried Talents,” “The Near Departed,” “Prey,” “Witch War,” “Dance of the Dead,” “Dress of White Silk,” “Mad House,” “The Funeral,” “From Shadowed Places,” “Person to Person.”

The premises in these tales are all drowned out by the continuing theme of ‘solitary psychology’, repetitions of ‘solitude and isolation’ in everymen, becomes wearisome and frankly boring. I found my mind wandering off in nearly every short story. None held my attention very well. There was one story about a house haunted by an angry writer “Mad House“, and that was an interesting premise, but it didn’t pay off. Another, about an everyman’s visit to a witch-doctor sounded interesting, but then it made me sleepy. The final story in the collection, “Person To Person,” started off very promisingly. An everyman is woken up by a telephone ringing late at night. But the ringing doesn’t stop when he picks up the phone. He consults doctors about this ringing, found only in his head, but there is no medical reason why it should happen. Soon thereafter, a psychiatrist suggest he try to stop the ringing by visualizing the act of answering a phone in his head. Lo and behold this works, and on the other end of the line is a man claiming to be from a top secret government agency! They are conducting telepathy trials – or at least that’s what the voice says. Unfortunately, the premise then is completely overwhelmed by that same recurrent theme: Psychology, psychology, psychology. Is the man crazy? Is it a mad scientist? Sadly you won’t care. These stories all disappoint. As a booster of short fiction I find myself surprised to be writing this – just forget about these short stories, the novel alone will provide more than enough value. But on the other hand, fans of Matheson’s short work should take note that the short stories are not included in the and iTunes versions. All ten short stories are exclusive to the CD and MP3-CD hard copies available through Blackstone Audiobooks.

Narrators Robertson Dean and Yuri Rasovsky split duty on this collection. Dean reads the novel and Rasovsky the short stories. Dean has a deep voice, and paints effective emotion in what is essentially a straight reading. I think I still prefer Walter Lawrence’s version (out of print) but this is a good reading. Rasovsky, on the other hand, injects a ferocity into the emotions of Matheson’s characters, his voice is raspy, almost scarred. Unfortunately the stories were not engaging, this despite Rasovsky’s best efforts. Blackstone has outfitted the audiobook with a dark out of focus cover that depicts a silhouette of a man walking a lonely street in the big city. Meh. Finally, I saw the latest movie version recently, I had low expectations so I was happy to see it was pretty good. I bring this up because, I think it important to note that the “Legend” of Robert Neville is a legend for an entirely different group in the book than in this film version. That is to say, if you only watched the movie, listen to the novel – it has a big surprise in store.

Posted by Jesse Willis

A plethora of pleasures from BBC7


BBC 7's The 7th DimensionThe next will be one of the busiest weeks ever heard on BBC7, with dramatizations and readings galore! Thankfully, all will be available through the BBC7 ‘listen again’ service. There are two novels by John Wyndham, a vintage Sherlock Holmes vs. vampire story (there have been severals by many hands over the years) as well as a rebroadcast of a popular new original drama (fans of which will be pleased to hear that a second series is set to air in early 2008)…

By Ben Moor; Performed by a full cast
5 Broadcast (5 Episodes) – [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: BBC7 / The 7th Dimension
Broadcast: Sundays at 6pm and midnight (for 5 weeks)
Edna Turner has just moved to London to work on a listings magazine and is naturally excited. Her boss is the friendly Carlo and while her bedsit isn’t exactly a palace, she gets down to work. An encounter at a music club with the strange Tankerton Slopes leads her to travel to the bizarre parallel city of “Undone” and a mission to send radical TV developer Marlboro Fagpacket back home. Read more about Undone on Ben Moor’s site.

A “gripping dramatisation by John Constable”, first broadcast in 1998 airs this Saturday…

Radio Drama - BBC7 - ChockyChocky
Based on the novel by John Wyndham; Performed by a full cast
1 Broadcast – 90 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: BBC7
Broadcast: Saturday @ 12pm (rerun @ 1am) UK Time
Many children have imaginary friends but one father becomes rather concerned that his son, Matthew, is a bit old to have one. His concerns deepen as his son becomes increasingly distressed and blames it on arguments with this unseen companion. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that the friend is far from imaginary, but is an alien consciousness residing inside Matthew’s mind—a fact that is of intense interest to shadowy government forces.

First broadcast on Saturday Night Theatre back in 1981…

Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula (AKA The Case of the Sanguinary Count)
Based on a novel by Loren D. Estleman; Performed by a full cast
1 Broadcast – [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: BBC7
Broadcast: Sunday at 10am and 8pm
Doctor Watson’s account of how the great detective Sherlock Holmes battled the evil forces of Count Dracula.

A “chilling” 1982 production that first aired on BBC Radio World Service…

Radio Drama - BBC7 - The Midwich CuckoosThe Midwich Cuckoos
Based on the novel by John Wyndham; Performed by a full cast
3 Parts – [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: BBC7 / The 7th Dimension
Broadcast: Wednesday – Friday at 6pm and midnight
Another alien impregnation theme – but this is where it all started – a sleepy English village may be the birthplace for the end of the world.

A season of four tales from around the world exploring the weird and the wonderful, first broadcast as a special commission on BBC 7 earlier this year…

Fantastic Tales – Hell Screen
By Ryunosuke Akutagawa; Read by Togo Igawa
2 Parts – [UNABRIDGED?]
Broadcaster: BBC7 / The 7th Dimension
Broadcast: Monday – Tuesday at 6.30pm and 12.30am
A horror story set in medieval Japan in which a powerful Lord clashes with an arrogant painter, leading to tragedy.

Fantastic Tales – Alarm Clock On The Night Table
By Zoran Zivkovic; Read by Anna Massey
1 Broadcast – [UNABRIDGED?]
Broadcaster: BBC7 / The 7th Dimension
Broadcast: Wednesday at 6.30pm and 12.30am
An unusual occurrence forces an elderly woman to confront a tragedy from her past.

Fantastic Tales – The White People
By Arthur Machen; Read by Ioan Meredith and Louise Collins
1 Broadcast – [UNABRIDGED?]
Broadcaster: BBC7 / The 7th Dimension
Broadcast: Thursday at 6.30pm and 12.30am
An intriguing tale which explores the nature of good and evil and the origins of sin.

Fantastic Tales – Delhi
By Vandana Singh; Read by Shiv Grewal
1 Broadcast – [UNABRIDGED?]
Broadcaster: BBC7 / The 7th Dimension
Broadcast: Friday at 6.30pm and 12.30am
A man living in present-day Delhi is haunted by visions of the city as it was in the past and how it will be in the future.

Posted by Jesse Willis

BBC7 For Halloween Week


BBC 7's The 7th DimensionBBC 7’s The 7th Dimension has two ghoulishly good readings airing this week as well as a lengthy radio dramatized version of the most famous vampire story ever told:

The Fall Of The House Of Usher
By Edgar Allan Poe; Read by Sean Barratt
STREAMING AUDIO – Approx. 30 Minutes – Stereo – [UNABRIDGED]
Broadcaster: BBC7 / The 7th Dimension
Broadcast: Sunday October 28th and Sunday November 4th
Poe’s chilling short story about a family’s descent into madness.

Trouble With Lichen
By John Wyndham; Read by Joanna Tope
5 Parts – [ABRIDGED]
Broadcaster: BBC7 / The 7th Dimension
Broadcast: Monday through Friday at 6.30 pm and 12.30am
“Biochemist Diana Brackley and her boss Francis Saxover have discovered that a rare strain of lichen can slow the ageing process. Idealistic Diana embarks on a lifelong mission to ensure that their discovery will benefit man-, and more particularly, woman-kind. But the trouble with lichen is that there’s not enough for everyone…”
Directed by Eilidh McCreadie.

Adapted from the novel by Bram Stoker; Performed by a full cast
7 Parts – [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: BBC7 / The 7th Dimension
Broadcast: Monday – Friday at 6pm and midnight (concludes Tuesday 6th Nov)
A chilling dramatisation of Bram Stoker’s vampire tale. Young solicitor Jonathan Harker travels to Transylvania and his encounter with Count Dracula has unsettling consequences. Frederick Jaegar stars as Dracula, and the cast includes Bernard Holley, Phyllis Logan, Sharon Maharaj and Finlay Welsh. Dramatized for radio in 7 parts by Nick McCarty and first heard on Radio 4 in 1991, the director was Hamish Wilson.

Posted by Jesse Willis

ABC RN broadcasts Dracula: international and time shifting listeners despair

SFFaudio Commentary

ABC RADIO NATIONAL's The Philosopher's ZoneABC Radio National, Australia’s public radio broadcaster, is going to be airing an abridged reading of Dracula by Bram Stoker. We’d like to tell you all about it, but there’s very little to say. We’d like to point you towards the audio index where the novel would normally be archived for a full eight weeks after the broadcasts, but we can’t. Reason is:

“Due to copyright restrictions this reading is unavailable as audio on demand.”

Now of course it’s plausible that this particular recording of Dracula, one of the most recorded audiobooks of all time, is covered by copyright. In fact, it’d be damn unlikely that it isn’t covered by copyright. Few if any public broadcasters are using creative commons licenses. What the disclaimer should actually say is:

“Due to copyright restrictions, not normally present on our regular 21st century novels, this 19th century novel is unavailable for audio on demand.”

Why then did RN choose a BBC abridgment of a public domain novel that has such restrictions? Why choose to air a classic novel, a freely available text, and get a version that precludes both “audio on demand” and podcasting rights? Why ABC? WHY?

Are we to assume the restrictions weren’t a deal breaker in this case, because this particular abridgement is by far the best reading of Dracula ever recorded?!?!

Maybe it is. Listeners to the 2003 BBC broadcast of this version had the following to say about the production:

“Over the years, I have listened to many reading versions of Dracula. The problem with a single reader for the story is that it is not very convincing for a male reader to read Mina’s diaries. I am glad this BBC version finally got it right. With many readers giving their account of the story, the realistic and scary elements have been added to give listener a better feel of the story unfold. I hope in the future,multi-readers production can be a standard practice.”

“I also feel that in the case of Dracula, it is better to have multiple readers. The talented actors involved in this production have, in my opinion, brought this story vividly to life. It’s particularly nice to hear James D’Arcy – he has a wonderful voice for radio.”

Now this is the kind of bedtime story you want, laced with blood, horror, and sexually charged gothic opulence. In this new adaptation of Bram Stoker’s classic, the various diary accounts of the four main characters are read by Michael Fassbender, James Greene, Gillian Kearney and James D’Arcy … Of course, you won’t sleep a wink.

Those lucky folks in Australia who’ve got the ability to listen live to all ten parts as they air can still enjoy it. Here are the details for all three of you lucky devils…

By Bram Stoker; Read by Michael Fassbender, Gillian Kearney, James D’Arcy and James Greene
10 parts – [ABRIDGED]
Broadcaster: ABC Radio National
Broadcast: Weekdays, July 2nd – 13th @ 2pm (repeats 11pm)
The most famous of all vampire stories, first published in 1897 and never out of print since. Dracula tells of a vampiric count, pursued relentlessly by those who would see him destroyed.

Prisoners Of Gravity, the best damn TV show ever: Have a listen

Online Audio

Online AudioIf you like Science Fiction and you haven’t managed to catch a single episode of Prisoners Of Gravity, I pity you. I really do. The show was awesome. It was produced between 1989 and 1994 for TV Ontario (and syndicated sporadically across North America) – each episode was like an extended blog entry (before there was such a thing). The topics, each episode only had one, focused on a particular theme found in Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and comic books.

The bulk of an individual show would be just ‘talking heads’ – it was an interview format show with multiple celebrity guests of the best kind, mostly SF&F authors. Each guest would talk about the subject at hand with the interviews having been done at conventions, bookstores and the like – but I can’t stress enough just how each show was so narrowly focused on a specific theme in Speculative Fiction. Here’s just a few of the episodes subjects:

Alternate Histories, Religion, War, Dreams, Watchmen (yup a whole show on the Alan Moore comic series), Cyberpunk, World-Building, Death, Vampires, Dinosaurs, Metamorphosis, Mars and many more.

What made the show so endearing, besides the absolutely stunningly cool content, was the unrelentingly geek-o-serious production. The show’s host, played by comedian Rick Green, was supposed to be a frustrated über-geek named Commander Rick, who had, prior to the show starting, fled the earth in his homemade rocket (packed ful of books and comics). Unforunately for the Commander, he crashed into a television satellite, from which he now broadcasts his show. His only companion there is Nan-Cy, the sardonic artificial intelligent computer system that keeps Rick alive and relatively sane.

If this shows sounds interesting, or you’re feeling nostalgic, click on over to my good friend Rachelle Shelkey’s fansite, Signal Loss, and have a peek around. No official DVDs are available, but there’s a message board and episode trading might be doable now with the promulgation of cheap DVD-Rs. I myself am sending Rachelle my entire collection of VHS tape, in the hopes I will be getting some episodes I’ve never seen before. If you have some episodes contact Rachelle! If we can get enough people interested maybe we can get a complete series run!

Now for the audio|MP3|. It is the first 5 minutes from an episode of Prisoners Of Gravity on the subject of Science Fiction Fandom. Enjoy!

posted by Jesse Willis

Though is leading the charge of del…

SFFaudio News

Though is leading the charge of delivering podcast audiobooks there are a number of independent novelists and podcasters who’ve started publishing on their own. We’ve assembled a list of some of the Science Fiction, Fantasy and related titles:

By Scott Sigler; Read by Scott Sigler and others
A technothriller centered on a transnational corporation’s scheme to create a creature that can be used to harvest organs for human use. And rather than debate the issue …. extreme violence is our best option.

Pirate Jack
By Allessandro Cima; Read by ??????
A Young Adult novel about pirates with fantastic elements.

The Master Of The World
By Jules Verne; Read by Eileen
This famous public domain science fiction novel is being read by the good folks Eileen at The Public Domain Podcast. Good on ya e!

Forever Fifteen
By Kiberley Steele; Read by ??????
The first and only teen vampire novel to be published so far. Think of it as Buffy the vampire. No slayer.

Brace for Impact
By ?????????; Read by ????????
“The mythology of Mick Aloha and Apocalypse Dowell, superhero / wrestling archenemies who must join forces for a common cause. If you’re looking for literature that will challenge your mind and improve your life…sorry.”

Tannis Island
By Gavin L. Lowe; Read by ????????
“Two divers on holiday in the Middle East discover an artifact beneath the coral growth under the Red Sea.”

Angelikae: Take Flight
By Colin Coltera; Read by ????????
Described as “Fantasy / Sci-fi.”

Sermons on Little Known Gods
By Lauren Merritt; Read by ????????
Described as “Humorous alternative fantasy.”

and perhaps most exciting….

By James Patrick Kelly; Read by James Patrick Kelly?

Posted by Jesse Willis