Tuesday, April 5, 2016

I Am Legend Reviewed - Galaxy 1955

I previously reprinted what I believe is the first published review of I Am Legend from the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (November 1954). I'm back with another early review, this one from anthologist Groff Conklin, book critic for Galaxy Science Fiction. This ran in the January 1955 issue of that magazine.
For what I think is Gold Medal's first venture into the field of original science fantasies, it has chosen a weird and, I fear, rather slow-moving first novel* by a man heretofore known for his excellent short horror tales. 
I Am Legend tells of a disease that almost completely wipes out the human race, leaving behind only a handful of hideously changed creatures to attempt to revive civilization. 
It is "supernatural" science fiction, a horrid, violent, sometimes exciting but too often overdone tour de force.
*As most of Matheson's fans are already aware, I Am Legend was not Matheson's first novel. While it was his first genre novel, it was preceded by Someone is Bleeding and Fury on Sunday, both published by Lion books in 1953.


Unknown said...

Very cool find!

JP said...

Thanks for sharing this. So many of the early reviews of the book seem caustic and overly negative. I can remember encountering Damon Knight's scathing review in "In Search of Wonder" (a highly overrated book in my opinion). I suppose the problem is that the novel was reviewed as a science fiction novel. Very happy the reputation of I am Legend has far outlasted the negative attitude put forth in these early reviews.

John said...

Thanks for commenting, Jordan. Yes, years ago I heard about Damon Knight's comments on Matheson, so I sought out "In Search of Wonder" to read them first hand. I don't think Knight could have imagined just how influential Matheson's novel would be, despite its scientific shortcomings.

In case you missed it, I also posted what I believe to be the novel's first published review from Fantasy & Science Fiction: https://iamlegendarchive.blogspot.com/2010/10/first-review-of-i-am-legend.html

Mark Louis Baumgart said...

It just goes to show that critics don't always get it right. Sometimes great works will outlive the negative criticism that they get. Sometimes they don't of course, lookit Richard Shaver, but on the whole, sometimes history is on the side of the author. Writers like Spillane, Lovecraft, Howard, Matheson, and others have outlived their critics, while so many critical darlings have faded into obscurity. Rarely does an author manage to influence so many medium as Matheson did. Good work reprinting this review.

New Italian graphic novel adaptation of I AM LEGEND available for pre-order

  Coming next May from our friends at Independent Legions in Italy (home of many Italian translations of great horror novels and stories), a...