"Come out Neville." is the plaintive call of Ben Cortman, the vampire who seeks relentlessly to lure Robert Neville to his doom each and every night after the silent fall of society. It's the quiet chant of madness in one of the great novels of the 20th century, a narrative of isolation, madness, and one man's attempt to bring order out of chaos. The story is really Robinson Crusoe but with vampire hordes.
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson was first published in 1954. Since that time this novel which portrays the end of the world as we know it as all of mankind is transformed into vampires. Against this tidal wave of night stalkers is one man, Robert Neville, the last true man on Earth.
The novel is divided into four parts. In the first we are a mere five months from the fall of civilization and Neville has barricaded himself in his home with supplies and equipment as he is visited nightly by vampires led by his former friend Ben Cortman. By day Neville tries to locate food and supplies and kills the vampires he can find and disposing of their bodies. A vast open pyre was established in the last days of civil order and that still smoldering pit is a daily destination, it's also where his daughter's remains are located. The Neville of the first few chapters is a drunken disorderly brute who is overwhelmed by the situation but refuses to give in to thoughts of suicide.
Later as the months slowly pass he uses his mind and science to try and find methods to deal with the rigors of his day to day existence and to give some meaning to his daily grind. He seeks to teach himself and then learn about the nature of the vampires and how they came to be. He slowly and with many setbacks learns that the plague is not supernatural but the result of cruel nature in the form of a bacterial infection which changes living things into houses for the maturation and development of the germs. This knowledge gives him some path to follow and makes his attempts to keep and treat a pitiful dog he discovers all the more tragic. Later in part three we are three years into the apocalypse and Neville meets a woman and his life is well and truly transformed. Part four is all about what comes next for the world and for Neville.