Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Guest Review: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Today, I have a guest review from my best mate, Adam Page. He read a book recently that he couldn't get out of his head, and asked if I would mind him writing a review for the blog. Of course I didn't! So without further ado, here is Adam's review of The Road by Corman McCarthy.

The Road by Cormac McCarthyThe Road by Cormac McCarthy - 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. From Goodreads.

The world is slowly dying. The vegetation has died, the animals are all but extinct. Ash blows around the burnt and desolate country. The rain and snow is full of it, dull and grey. And walking through this wasteland, an unnamed father and son push a shopping cart full of their meagre possessions. A few blankets, some cans of food, a pistol with two rounds in it. Either to defend themselves, or to end their lives when despair finally takes over.

So begins The Road, a Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Cormac McCarthy. I have read several of his novels, but I read this for the first time a few days ago. I read it in one sitting and it has seared itself into my mind. It is a deeply horrific and disturbing novel, and one I recommend to everyone.

It is several years after an unknown event has devastated the world. The father and son are slowly making their way south, in the hope it will be warmer, hoping to do more than just survive. At the forefront of their minds is food, always food. And shoes. They are constantly scavenging for food, in a world where cannibalism has become rife. They, the father reassures his son, are the good guys. The others are the bad guys.

This is an excellent story, written in Cormac McCarthy's unique style. There are no chapters, the sentences are short and direct. He never uses apostrophes, and long dialogue scenes occur with no quotation marks, and yet you are never in any doubt about who is speaking to whom.

It is classified as Post-Apocalyptic fiction. However, as a huge horror fan, I would class it as a horror novel. The few times the father and son come across other people, the encounters are savage, brutal, full of despair. I found this extremely realistic; in a world such as this, there are no happy camps, with friendly people growing their own food. If you are in a group of other people in this world and come across others, you kill them, rob them and eat them. Indeed one of the most terrifying and suspenseful scenes occurs when father and son come across what they think is an abandoned house; they search it, break into the basement and come across many people, imprisoned, naked and being eaten limb from limb. They are screaming for help but the father knows he can’t. And that’s when the son sees the cannibals walking back along the lawn. But these aren’t drooling, crazy monsters. These are just people, surviving. We all have darkness in us and I found myself wondering at several points, in this world, what side would I be on?

I don’t want to give too much away, but there are some heartbreaking scenes. When the father has to teach his son how to kill himself, how to put the pistol into his mouth if anyone gets to them, brought a lump to my throat. It is a story of deep love between a father and son. He says several times he will do simply anything to protect his son, he will kill anyone who touches his son.

There is no real plot, in the traditional sense of the word. There is no A to B to C, it is more a collection of scenes, things that happen to them during their desperate struggle. As you read, you find yourself hoping them on, willing them on. And yet, the world McCarthy vividly creates does not lend itself to hope, or redemption.

I recommend this to everyone. It is a hard read, not one that will inspire happiness, and yet once I started, I could not put it down. It’s a short novel and I read it in one go, but I think even if it had been longer I still would have gotten through it in one sitting, or very close to it. A simply incredible book.

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Published: 14th October 2008
Publisher: Vintage
Cormac McCarthy's Website

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