By my reckoning, a book like I Am Legend, a post-apocalyptic bit of vampire fiction, has only a few different tacks it can tack to be considered a success.
The first and most obvious would be to use the scenario — the last man on earth amidst a hive of vampires, to construct an allegory that informs the reader about humanity.
The second is to craft a compelling main character, in whom the reader can invest his emotions and occupy the fictional space vicariously.
The third is to tell a gripping narrative, full of twists and turns that, perhaps a bit shallow, forces the reader to race through the story to arrive at a gripping conclusion.
Matheson’s book does none of these things. There’s a brief moment of reflection at the novel’s end where the narrator reflects on who is the real monster, but it’s hardly a revelation. The main character is a cardboard cutout — the only things I can recall him doing was spilling liquor constantly, punching walls, and being stoic. And as for story… well, nothing really happens, in truth. There is no catharsis. I learned nothing.
This should have been a short story at best, and yet, it was the inspiration for Night of the Living Dead. Go figure.