Friday, February 16, 2007

The Road

The Road is Cormac McCarthy's version of the perennial sci-fi genre, the post-apocalyptic novel. McCarthy does not impose the supernatural/fantastic element on the genre, although there is plenty of horror to go around, including the constant threat of cannibalism. This isn't a stretch for the author, who explored necrophilia in Child of God, incest in Outer Dark, and general moral depravity in Blood Meridian. He is, however, a thoughtful and precise writer- qualities which distinguish him from the Stephen Kings of the world in his treatment of a common theme.

The Road follows an unnamed man and his son as they make their slow hazardous trek to the sea some years after an apparent nuclear holocaust. The landscape is ashen and dead and the bleakness of the extended nuclear winter and the hopelessness of survival on earth in the wake of the catastrophe are well portrayed. I can't write too much about the plot without giving spoilers to the narrative. Suffice to say that McCarthy tries to give some faint glimmer of hope at the end, but that hope is surely a mirage, a temporary reprieve from suffering in a future in which all hope has been annihilated.

On a personal note, as the father of young boys, the narrative of the man and his son adrift in the wasteland holds a real poignancy. This father-son relationship is surely the most tender and true bit of writing that McCarthy has yet written. The dedication, to John Francis McCarthy, is presumably to the author's son.

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