By Nick Manteris · 1 Comments · Leave a Comment
The story of The Road centers on a father and son and their journey across an almost unimaginably bleak, post-apocalyptic landscape. The beginning of the end of their world occurs in a flashback, but the full extent of the cataclysm is never fully explained. (There is, however, a slight hint that maybe mankind is responsible for its own demise.) The countryside is burned and lifeless, ash falls from the sky covering everything and they are forced to breathe through masks. Some of the signs imply that they are survivors of a nuclear holocaust, but – since the threat of radiation is never once addressed in the story – it seems more likely that it was some sort of solar or geological event. Ultimately, though, the reason why is unimportant: the earth is practically dead and the living must do what they can to survive. The only thing that matters to the father and son now is heading south on the road, in hopes that they will make it through the winter. The road – like life – is difficult, filled with perils, savagery and death, but what other choice do they have?
The mystery disaster initially reminded me of Dies the Fire (another end of the world novel by S. M. Stirling that I read somewhat recently), but then there was gunfire and that connection was lost. Stirling’s book had too many Renaissance Faire geeks running around and a large number of improbabilities, but it was a fun enough read. In Pat Frank’s Alas, Babylon, the cataclysm was definitely linked to atomic weapons and the dangers of radiation were clearly shown. A comet hit the planet to cause the apocalypse in Lucifer’s Hammer by Niven and Pournelle. There are a number of post-apocalyptic stories out there and while these particular stories might be more entertaining than The Road, none of these books are as brutal and dark…and certainly none of them are as well written.
Cormac McCarthy is one of the major American novelists of his time and The Road was awarded the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. He has an unusual writing style that does not include quotation marks, but his dialogue flows smoothly enough without them. There is a poetic quality to the way that he describes things that – at least in this novel – makes the hardships and devastation easier to endure. Although, the words he chooses only seem to be the delivery mechanism to evoke the scenes and images that will stay with you for a while after the story is over…and McCarthy seems to be particularly skilled at creating these lasting moments. The Road is worth reading...and it's an unusual journey and it will definitely stick with you for some time after you put the book down.