August 9, 2011

The Road by Cormac McCarthy [review time]

"He thought perhaps they'd come to warn him. Of what? That he could not enkindle in the heart of the child what was ashes in his own. Even now some part of him wished they'd never found this refuge. Some part of him always wished it to be over."
An incredible literary author takes a stab at post-apocalyptic fiction - and nails it. The Road is chilling, deliberate, and beautifully written. It opens up many avenues of thought and questioning with a poetic hand while still giving horror-seekers the thrill they are after. The last of the human race after an unexplained armageddon run and hide from those turned to cannibalism and human-farming to fill their bellies. McCarthy claims that this story was written to say something about his relationship with his son, and the dead land-scape of a fallen America is the setting for his message: that we do what we can to pass on our values to our children, who must eventually replace us.

The protagonist of the novel is known only as "the man", his son, "the boy." This could really be a story about any man in the post-apocalyptic situation, travelling from the northern US to warmer climes in a desperate attempt at survival. He is unnamed and largely uncharacterized, leaving plenty of room to relate to him. The man knows that he will not always be there to protect the boy, and has to teach him to make it in the world on his own - not only in a practical sense, but also as one of the last of the human race. The story is about keeping humanity alive and passing down what makes us human even when our entire civilization is gone.

The story is largely driven by the quest for food, and basic survival. The Road is so bleak and depressing that we get excited even when the man finds shrivelled dry apples to live off for a while, to keep going, keep trekking onward and "carrying to fire." Driving home the horrors of this world are some very graphic images and the constant feel of being hunted and tracked throughout the novel. The Road is darkly horrifying, yet satisfying.

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