The Road – Cormac McCarthy
As has been mentioned previously, there are a few of us in Liquorature with a soft spot for post-apocalyptic fiction. Perhaps it is a dark side in us, but more likely an over-active imagination. I wrote in the review for “The Chrysalids” that the appeal, for myself anyway, lies in the world of possibilities available within the post-apocalypse scenario. “What would you do if…?” “How would you…?” “What would be the first thing…?” Ask yourself some of these questions, and see what internal demons awaken. Our base instincts are much more depraved than we like to admit, I think.
“The Road” is somewhat unique within the genre in that we don’t get to ask these questions in quite the same way. We don’t get the “whole world at your fingertips” scenario to play with. Instead we ask, “would it even be worth it to survive?”
“The Road” is undeniably the bleakest novel I have ever read. This isn’t a world where the slate has been wiped clean and society is starting over. This is a world where the sky is dead, the earth is decimated and the water is a charred grey primordial soup. The roads are traveled by roving bands of the last survivors, clinging to life by way of cannibalism, murder, theft and scavenge.
It is written in McCarthy’s typically sparse cold prose, which adds another level of detachment to the novel. Though similar to his other works in terms of punctuation (or lack thereof) and structure, the content and readability are poles apart from the style that turned some of the group off with “Blood Meridian”. This is a simple and contemporary piece of writing. A few hours worth of reading from start to finish.
The reader is drawn along the burnt-out highways of America with The Man and The Boy. In a fashion almost Steinbeck or Hemingway in nature, these are the names by which we know the protagonists. Their struggles through obstacles great and small are carefully wrought with detail, and the author’s revelations throughout the book of what has become of the earth resound like a call to humanity. Ironically, just days before writing this review, the Doomsday Clock was set back by a minute. Is it naive to hope that we as a species could possible evolve, and not continue our devolution?
The almost utopian nature of some post-apocalyptic fiction (think “The Stand”) is non-existent here. This is a novel about the end of the end of times.
McCarthy won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2007 for this book. It is haunting, heart-breaking…but ultimately rewarding. An essential read.