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Richard Matheson
Tor, 394 pages

Richard Matheson
Richard Matheson was born in New Jersey in 1926 and has lived and worked in California since 1951. In addition to novels in the mystery, science fiction, horror, fantasy, and western field, he's also done many film and television scripts including "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" from The Twilight Zone. He also wrote episodes of Have Gun, Will Travel, Night Gallery, and Star Trek. Several of his novels and stories have been made into movies including The Shrinking Man, I Am Legend and What Dreams May Come (the film starred Robin Williams). His awards include the World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award, the Bram Stoker Award for Life Achievement, the Hugo Award, the Edgar Allan Poe Award, the Golden Spur Award, and the Writer's Guild Award.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: I Am Legend

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Alma A. Hromic

Steven Spielberg based Duel, his very first movie and the one that launched a glittering career, on the title story of this Richard Matheson collection. Three of the stories in the collection were the basis of The Twilight Zone episodes, back when Rod Serling was still running the show. Stephen King states that Matheson was one of his most fundamental influences (and you know, read a few Matheson stories and you suddenly know exactly where King came from).

With a bunch of iconic references like that, you know you have a classic collection in your hands. What's more, you begin to get a glimmer of something here: Matheson was here before Spielberg, before The Twilight Zone, before Stephen King. Matheson -- award-winning writer whose oeuvre spans decades -- is the once and future king, the fountain from which everything flowed. He appears to have single-handedly shaped a magnificent cultural heritage, filled with people who turned into instantly recognizable household names after their brush with Matheson and his work or his influence.

This is a "classic collection", in the sense that the stories it contains all date from the early 50s (except "Duel", the title story, which has a copyright date of 1971). And it's astonishing how much a story can be defined and dated by its language. If I hadn't known that the publication dates for most of these stories ranged from 1950 to 1954, I would have been able to make an educated guess that placed them very close to that time period -- not necessarily because they were dated or anachronistic in any way, but there is simply something about the themes, the treatment of those themes, the very underlying language of it all. In the intervening years, the genre conveniently lumped under the sub-title "terror stories" have changed considerably, and not always for the better -- Matheson's tales are far more subtle than the more recent slasher fiction that currently goes under the mantle of "terror". Fear is strongest when it is in the mind. When stories are crafted around this, it is the reader's imagination that supplies the image of the things to be afraid of -- and this nameless faceless terror is always far more effective than any writer's crude representation of it. Matheson knows this, and leaves just enough unsaid to leave the reader flinching at sudden noises in the night.

It's always a privilege watching a master at work. And this collection is the work of a master.

Copyright © 2003 Alma A. Hromic

Alma A. Hromic, addicted (in random order) to coffee, chocolate and books, has a constant and chronic problem of "too many books, not enough bookshelves". When not collecting more books and avidly reading them (with a cup of coffee at hand), she keeps busy writing her own. Following her successful two-volume fantasy series, Changer of Days, her latest novel, Jin-shei, is due out from Harper San Francisco in the spring of 2004.

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