Critical Overview

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 235

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction by John Clute and Peter Nichols indicated that Richard Matheson’s work moves back and forth between horror and science fiction, but that no matter what genre he writes in, his work is unified by a thematic emphasis on paranoia. That said, while Matheson’s works do...

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The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction by John Clute and Peter Nichols indicated that Richard Matheson’s work moves back and forth between horror and science fiction, but that no matter what genre he writes in, his work is unified by a thematic emphasis on paranoia. That said, while Matheson’s works do shuttle between genres, many critics place him more strongly in the horror lineage; James Twitchell, writing in Dreadful Pleasures (a critical study of modern horror), and Brian Aldiss, writing in Trillion Year Spree (a history of science fiction) both praised Matheson’s talents and referred to him as an heir to Edgar Allan Poe.

Other critics discuss Matheson’s novel in terms of its influence on others. For example, in Our Vampires, Ourselves, a study of the vampire genre, Nina Auerbach noted how Matheson’s treatment of the vampire mythos helped shaped later works in the genre, especially in the 1970s. To be specific, Matheson’s novel is singled out as helping to normalize vampirism, moving it from the genuinely strange and rare to the common and collective.

Stefan Dziemianowicz’s bio-critical overview of Matheson’s life and career argued for Matheson’s powerful influence on the field (specifically indicating Matheson as a model for George Romero’s zombie movies) and singled out Matheson’s tendency throughout his work to ground his stories in realistic detail, most often in common, middle American settings.

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