I did like the story, but one of the biggest bothers for me here was not fully understanding why the world has gone to shit & why everyone is now a vampire.
The book just drops you right in the middle of Robert Neville's situation, which is a day to day existence of killing vampires during the day & hiding in his house during the night.
I'm the kind of SF reader who likes a bit of depth to be given to the cause of disaster, and this story largely glosses over the "Why?"
But I'm coming at it from the angle of a reader who has exhausted the zombie/vampire/virus genre. For the time it was written, this probably struck readers in a much different way.
If you're basing your opinion of this book solely off your knowledge of the movie, I'd ahead and throw that idea out the window because this book is nothing like the Will Smith, good-guy-out-to-save-humanity, crying-over-his-dog, self-sacrificing version Hollywood has created.
This is much darker.
In fact, I imagine a group of important movie folks came to the conclusion that Matheson's story is "pretty nifty, but how about we throw out all the deep, scary conclusions about human nature & amp up the action x1000 & also we need a German Shepherd in there so Smith comes off as even more relatable & wholesome."
Robert Neville is not necessarily squeaky clean protagonist, and that realistic quality of his character is essential to the observations Matheson is making here. By the end, you aren't 100% sure what outcome you're rooting for & for me that is one of the most powerful aspects of how the story is told.
But again, I'm not sure I'm fully on board with the details of why & how Neville has managed to survive for years under these conditions.
Neville has brick- & rock-proofed his home against the vampires that are constantly trying to get in with a reliable supply of garlic. He sound proofs his house, has a gas generator that he keeps running by way of a nearby gas station, and an ungodly amount of alcohol, cigarettes, and wine in his home.
I guess a scenario where all of those things exist in Neville's possession isn't outlandish but the story itself wasn't long enough to explore any sort of break down of these proofs, and thus it felt a bit unrealistic to me.
Even so, Matheson does well in capturing the absolute lowest levels of human desperation, taking us down deep into the terrifying subconscious of a secluded man on the brink of losing his ability to be compassionate & remember what it means to be human.
The pro here is, if you're curious about this story, it's short & will only take a bit of time to consume. If you don't love it, no big loss. If you do, well now you know!
Unfortunately I didn't love it, but I appreciate the concepts here & I definitely enjoyed the last 1/4 a lot more than the first 3/4. Worth a read!