The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Review by Floresiensis
As Fantasy Book Review now has a section devoted to dystopian fiction (it is a work in progress) I felt it was about time that I finally got around to reviewing some of its finest examples. Over the coming weeks I will be adding four titles that I have long since read, loved, but have not as yet reviewed. They are The Stand by Stephen King, The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham, Swan Song by Robert McCammon and – one that is arguably the best of them all – The Road by Cormac McCarthy.
And it is with The Road that I will begin. Cormac McCarthy’s tenth novel won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2007 and was hailed as the ‘the first great masterpiece of the globally warmed generation’. It is the story of a father and son walking alone through the ravaged landscape of a burned America to the coast.
The Road is many things, it is brilliantly-written, poetic, compelling and terrible in its beauty, but there is one thing that it certainly is not, and that is a fun read. It is, in fact, heart-breaking; playing strongly on the reader’s basic human instinct to protect their young at all costs and the father’s sense of desperation, dread and isolation are almost palpable.
The book is relentlessly bleak but it is also about love and as such utterly compelling and peculiarly life-affirming. I found it to be a both inspirational and cautionary tale and rarely have I experienced such a gamut of emotions whilst reading.
At just nigh of 200 pages it is a short story by todays standards, but this is due to McCarthy’s sparse prose, where he wastes not a single word and achieves more – and says more – than ninety nine per cent of books four or five time the size.
You must read The Road, it is one of the finest books of the last century.
In 2010 Harvey Weinstein filmed an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel with a cast including Viggo Mortensen, Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce, Robert Duvall and Kodi Smit McPhee, with a soundtrack by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.
Xavier from Austria
Just read this book for the third time and it never fails to evoke the very strongest emotions. Love, fear, anger, hope all war with each other. What never fails to surprise me is that a book as bleak and unendingly desolate as The Road leaves me full of hope for the future. I think this is because there is immense love within each family that will hopefully ensure that each parent will do whatever they can to offer an improved life to their child. And this I hope will lead to the human race being less destructive with each new generation. I know that it was likely a super volcano that caused the environment the Man and the Boy struggled to survive in but the cause is not really relevant, and living in harmony with the planet must be achieved.
Dark Santa from Nowhereland
This is a book you've got to read in one sitting. It may be depressing, but it's a depressing life they live, and there is some hope at the end, though I do not wish to ruin it for people. You care about these nameless people, these wanderers who travel a darkened road. You can't help but picture yourself in their shoes. Throughout the entire journey (because it's not a tale; it's something you live) I pictured it as myself and my younger brother, and you can't help but feel all sorts of emotions. When they are at their worst, you feel bleak, give up any hope. When their luck comes through, it's not joy you feel, but a sense of distracted joy, that you know you can't have it this way forever, and you have to keep thinking ahead. The only bit I didn't like about this is how McCarthy writes his books. I've never been a fan, but his style worked. No sense of correct grammar and a bare writing style that reflects how the world has been stripped down and devoid of almost anything resembling what we are used to. Still, it was damn annoying.
Gary from V
A novel that creates so much anguish, absolutely no joy and tortures your soul. The story itself is simply amazing, yet it's hard to enjoy a read that has no joy at all. This is definitely a read worth reading (though not for the faint of heart). It will likely keep you awake for days, I myself have been kept awake. I like the father-son archetype, and the political viewing along with it's message on bravery, the story itself is almost unreadable.
Trent from Atlanta
Quite simply, this is the most beautiful book I have ever read.
John from Detroit USA
I agree... Read this book twice consecutively. Not a big fan of fiction but like the post apocolyptic genre...This is a top 3 book for me. McCarthy wastes not one space in his prose. There are single lines that completely envelop the reader. "Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it.." One of the best lines I've ever read. Beautifully written.
Mark from Scotland
It is true that this book is possibly the most bleak and depressing read ever. Saying that I read it in a few days as it had me completely enthralled. I loved every page and having a young son of my own, I connected with everything. Although the story was totally heartbreaking, the moments of love, happiness and survival made it worth while. Also I'm not much of a blubber but I cried like a baby reading this.
Josh from Australia
Some people may argue a present degree of masochism here, but I'll say this much - I enjoyed The Road. I enjoyed it thoroughly. So many dystopian fictions tie their subtext or "moral" to shoddy, ham-fisted religious messages that cheapen the value of life and experience against the specific creed it's marketing. The Road, with McCarthy's concise, moving prose tells a story that is universally human; painful, gripping, confronting and tragically beautiful. While this might be splitting hairs, John Hillcoat directed the film adaptation and I believe it was produced by Nick Wechsler, Paula Mae Schwartz and Steve Schwartz. Also, it was released in late 2009 and Hollywood producer Harvey Weintsein (to my knowledge) had nothing to do with it.
Mike from Dublin
I agree, a 10/10 book. I first came across Cormac McCarthy's name when I noticed that one of my favourite films, No Country for Old Men, had been adapted from a book he had written. I wouldn't call myself a massive fan of post-apocalyptic literature and I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed (if that is right word) this book. This book has never left me and I still feel a slight heart-ache every time I think about it. Simply written. Simply brilliant.
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