BOOK REVIEW: Steel and Other Stories by Richard Matheson

Steel: And Other StoriesSteel: And Other Stories by Richard Matheson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Steel and Other Stories is a collection of 15 short stories from the author of I am Legend. Thirteen of the fifteen stories are from the 50’s, and motifs of that time are common (e.g. Cold War phobia, the Western, etc.)

1.)The title story, Steel, is about android boxers. Viewers of the movie Real Steel, which was loosely based on this story, will find the story not much like the film. In the film the boxers are robots, but in the story they are androids. For those readers who aren’t sci-fi geeks, the difference is that androids look and move like humans. There is more on the line in the final fight in the story than in the film.

2.) Fit the Crime is about a cantankerous old poet on his deathbed. It’s a humorous story and will be enjoyed by those who love language play.

3.) The Wedding is about a superstitious groom who gets on his bride’s last nerve.

4.) The Conqueror is the sole Western in the collection. It features gunfights and a final line revelation.

5.) Dear Diary is a very short sci-fi piece that is written in the form of three diary entries: one in 1954, one in 3954, and one at an undesignated date presumed to be later than the second entry. In typical Mathesonian style, the third entry, only a partial sentence, turns expectations on end.

6.) In Descent two couples are preparing to move underground to survive nuclear holocaust. Confronted with the decision of dying above ground or living a subterranean life, one of the men opts for the former. This creates a dilemma for the man’s wife.

7.) In The Doll That Does Everything two parents of a horrid child contemplate whether the lifelike doll they buy their child really can do everything.

8.) The Traveler is about scholars who go back in time, cloaked, to observe biblical history first hand.

9.) When Day is Dun is about the last man alive, but, unlike I am Legend, the apocalypse is of nuclear annihilation.

10.) Splendid Source is one of the most famous stories in the collection. It’s about a search for the point of origin of ribald jokes. Viewers of Family Guy will recognize its depiction in an episode of that series.

11.) Lemmings is one of the shortest pieces in the collection. It imagines humanity walking one after another into the sea.

12.) In The Edge a man finds that people he doesn’t know know him. This begs the question of whether he has a doppelgänger or he’s lost his mind.

13.) In A Visit to Santa Claus a man reconsiders a contract on his wife’s life that is to be executed on a visit to the mall to see Santa.

14.) In Dr. Morton’s Folly a dentist gets an after-hours emergency case.

15.) In The Window of Time A man travels back in time 68 years by mysterious circumstance, walking familiar territory in transformed in time.

Matheson is a master story craftsman, and this collection is an interesting mix of stories from various genres–some humorous and some dark.

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Book Review: I AM LEGEND by Matheson

I Am LegendI Am Legend by Richard Matheson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Matheson brings the vampire tale into the age of science and reason. The protagonist, Robert Neville, considers the science of why the vampires are in some ways like the legends (e.g. Bram Stoker’s) Actually, Bram Stoker may be said have done so with a much more rudimentary state of science, but Matheson dispenses with the supernatural altogether.

Of course, where the book really shines is in Neville’s realization at the end, which I will not go into to avoid spoilers, but which makes the title quite apropos. (As opposed to the movie.)

For those having seen the Will Smith movie of the same name and wondering if the book will offer them some thing new, it certainly does. As alluded to above, the ending is entirely different, and the story-line bares little resemblance besides the existence of vampire-esque creatures.

I didn’t get why the vampires were so helpless to get into his house night after night (the old wives’ tale about having to invite them in is unmentioned), or at least I wondered about it throughout most of the book. I guess one can reason it out near the end. Some of Matheson’s descriptions reads like descriptions but turn out to be metaphor, and that can be a little confusing. (i.e. something like, “he felt a spike pierce his chest”, and you later realize he was just saying that it hurt sharply and intensely that there was no actual piercing and no literal spike.

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