Author: Cormac McCarthy
First Published: September 26, 2006
Genres: Dystopia, Post Apocalyptic
A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don't know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other.
The Road is the profoundly moving story of a journey. It boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, but in which the father and his son, "each the other's world entire," are sustained by love. Awesome in the totality of its vision, it is an unflinching meditation on the worst and the best that we are capable of: ultimate destructiveness, desperate tenacity, and the tenderness that keeps two people alive in the face of total devastation.
Where to start with this book. Well, first I can say that The Road is my first Cormac McCarthy book and I’m deeply conflicted about it. I was immediately surprised and rather frustrated by his writing style. There is a part of me that wants to read his other books to see what the fuss is about, but the other part of me is honestly hesitant because of how miserable my reading experience was with The Road. It is one of the most horrifying books I’ve ever read, both for its content and for the blatant disregard of anything that makes a book great but especially syntax.
The lack of punctuation, especially the total absence of quotation marks signifying conversation irked me. It wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the fact that there was little to no notation as to who was talking, and conversation between all of the characters was so bland they were indistinguishable. I found it distracting having to go back and count lines to figure out who was saying what and this to me is just a waste of time. It was atrocious how poor the readability of the writing was and a less famous author would be slammed for writing this poorly. I had to take a star off of my rating purely for this reason.
Before McCarthy fans raise their pitchforks, I do want to acknowledge that I understand that McCarthy writes this way on purpose, that’s his own prerogative but I don’t have to like it. Reading this book made me appreciate grammar and punctuation afterward. Normally I don’t care if a writer has perfect punctuation or even a few spelling errors as long as things are readable but this was miserable.
“People were always getting ready for tomorrow. I didn’t believe in that. Tomorrow wasn’t getting ready for them. It didn’t even know they were there.”
On the flip side, the story was actually pretty interesting and it kept me reading. The world is described in great detail and although the characters are flat, I still found myself caring at least a little bit about what happened to them. Many of the events in the book were truly unnerving, though I must say, by the end of the book it became extremely predictable. “Hey! People have been here! They were probably doing something horrible!” I get it, people become assholes when they’re hungry and the world is ending.
The book is pretty damn bleak, and while I have no problem with stories being dark and hopeless, it felt like there wasn’t much more to it than that. Perhaps I’ve just read too much existentialist fiction for any of this to be new or thought-provoking. I wasn’t surprised nor particularly moved, which makes me feel kind of callous considering the subject matter. I’ve cried my eyes out reading other books, but this one just didn’t hit me the same way.
Overall it was alright, I like it and don’t like it and the more that time passes I like it even less. There were moments where I was drawn into the story and had knots in my stomach with full-on dread, on the scale of one to ten for visceral horror it is a solid ten. It’s a book that could be great but comes in the worst package possible and there is just no good reason for it.
- Pros: Bone-chilling dystopia with a message of hope, especially about parenthood in a world gone insane.
- Cons Lack of punctuation is difficult to follow, flat characters.
- Warnings: Violence, Gore, Cannibalism, Language