Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Without ever becoming self-consciously dreamlike, Cormac McCarthy's fine post-apocalyptic novel The Road, nevertheless effectively delivers a virtually unrelenting nightmare, as it tells the story of a beaten-down father and son making their way over a burned-out, blighted landscape in a probably vain attempt to improve their grim lot.
The book will probably reach you on one or more levels: as a survivalist tale; a post-disaster science fiction story (a kind of literary, more serious Mad Max), or simply as a drama about a family and how a huge outside force affects its internal politics. At various points, the book engaged me on each of these levels. Also, if you want to look for it, I suspect there's a lot of metaphor and religious imagery in The Road, too, though I pretty much focused on the book's primary (to me, anyway) facet: that of being a plain but strong story, simply told.
And for those of you who hate preachiness in their novels, don't worry: there's no obvious, clunky message, either from the left or right political spectrum, concerning how the Earth of the book got into its grim predicament, or what could have prevented it. The book is more subtle than that, and the characters have more immediate concerns to worry about than how things got the way they did.
However, though I was fascinated and engaged by the novel from beginning to end, it's nearly unbroken stretch of grim, grey scenes, the frequent discoveries of an increasingly horrible nature by the two main characters, and just seeing the Earth so ruined by an unnamed global disaster, made me glad that The Road wasn't a terribly long book. I'm glad I got in and out of it fairly quickly.
A movie adaptation of The Road now exists, too, and many fine, talented individuals took part in its creation. But I think I'll take a little break before experiencing this memorably grim, sad story a second time.
The Road is available on Kindle for $11.99.