Book Review: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

I’m tired of post-apocalyptic stories. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed The Road. While the world was very similar to Mad Max, or even The Walking Dead, McCarthy brought a fresh story-line to this usually straight forward genre.

The Story: McCarthy gave us nothing new in terms of world-building. After decades of ignoring the signs, humanity caused the Earth to self-implode. Personally, because of all the ash, I like to think this Armageddon was caused by the eruption of a super-volcano. (Maybe even the one hidden below Yellowstone). But, that’s mainly the volcano freak inside of me talking.

McCarthy also does a fantastic job sucking all the joy out of a cross-country adventure. There’s bloodcults, women used as meal-birthing devices, and the almost-horror of eating a dog. Three things I would never like to experience, ever. In fact, as I sit on my bed, staring at my sleeping cat as I write this review, I can’t help but think about how long I would last in this world. I’d be so dead, a mere bump in the road for them to sweep away with the brooms on the bottom of their shopping cart. Hopefully too dead to have been a snack for the bloodcults.

The Road is simply a story about two people surviving on the road. That’s it, and as compelling as that sounds on its own, the story is strangely beautiful. We get to see this father and son experience some of the worst circumstances imaginable, and endure. We get to (Spoilers!) read about how the mother killed herself because she knew what their life would entail. She is not treated as weak either, in fact she is there mainly to haunt the father in his dreams. Most of her lines in the flash-backs are some of the best in the novel. Her story line isn’t extremely important, but it does help the reader understand the Man and his motives.

Life is bleak in this novel, but there are still moments of joy, and love. The lengths the Man would go to protect the Boy is heart-warming. Their relationship is normal, and broken at the same time. But, the best thing about this novel is McCarthy’s prose, and that simply makes it all worth while. My favourite line in the novel was during the scene of the father watching the son as he plays on a flute, The man thought he seemed some sad and solitary changeling child announcing the arrival of a traveling spectacle in shire and village who does not know that behind him the players have all been carried off by wolves. If that imagery doesn’t make you want to read it, nothing I say will.

The Characters: The Man and The Boy are very simple characters. A dad and his son wandering through a barren landscape, trying to survive. They encounter cannibals and zombie-Esq old men a like. But, it is their relationship that really drew me into the story. They have no names, and I can’t really recall their features, other than the boys golden hair. But none of that matters in the world they live in.

In this version of Earth only the strong-willed survive. And as they both say throughout the novel “we carry the fire.” What I presume to be hope. The Man stays alive to protect his son, and the same for the Boy. Though, he is less despondent than his father. He does not know of the world before this. Of television or over-stocked grocery stores. He only knows ash, and death. But even that does not break him. That’s what I loved about this story, no matter how grim it got (And hooo boy did it). The Boy always keeps his humanity, and that was the one spot of light in this dreary world.

My Rating: 7.5/10
The Main reason why it is not an 8 out of 10 is because I really am not a fan of post-apocalyptic wastelands. I’ve seen them enough that they don’t make me feel anything new. There was nothing that really changed me in the writing. The prose was great, as per usual with McCarthy. It just didn’t blow me away. 7.5 is still very strong, though. And, I 100% recommend you read The Road if you ever get a chance.

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