Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Road Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: Cormac McCarthy
Publisher: Vintage Books
Genre: Dystopian Science Fiction
Series: Standalone
Pages: 287

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The Road is a desolate tale about a father and a son traveling traveling through a post apocalyptic world.  Throughout the book the father is only referred to as “the father,” or the “man,” while his son is referred to as “the son,” or “the boy.”

The Road is bleary and depressing.   Its imagery is dark, its characters are traumatized, and suffering appears to continue without end.  McCarthy’s post apocalyptic world is a true hell, and when his characters aren’t suffering they are most likely witnessing great suffering.

The only comfort this father and son have is each other, and that relationship is what keeps inspiring them to live, just the same as it keeps readers reading and not giving up hope.

After an unnamed post apocalyptic event occurred, a father and son are left with only each other to face a world wrought with cruelty and lack of humanity.  The father soon realizes that the oncoming winter will be harsh, and based off of their current location, they will not be able to survive it.

The father and the son pack up their meager possessions and begin to trek south.  Along the way they learn to avoid larger groups of people, many of whom have resorted to cannibalism in order to survive.

The Road isn’t just another post apocalyptic story.   It is the story of the father and son relationship, the story of perseverance against all odds, and it is a story that explores the harshest aspects of survival and humanity.  The darkened landscape acts as a reminder to readers of the evils inherent in all people.

Reading this for the first time immediately reminded me of Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea, and that’s not just because of McCarthy’s use of short sentence prose.  The Old Man in Hemingway’s story has all of the odds stacked against him but he still he carries on.   Even after the epic battle where he catches the marlin, he carries on.  When the Old Man is not able to bring the fish back home as it gets mauled by sharks, he still carries on.

McCarthy’s story is a lot like Hemingway’s in terms of each story’s treatment of the idea of persevering against all odds. Ironically the boy and the man are more like the fish in Hemingway’s story, as they are trying to avoid being eaten, rather than the other way around.

The father and son relationship is explored in a very unique way due to the horrible living conditions the characters are subjected to.  For example the son’s education by the father is cynical at best.  The boy is taught how to travel safely by his father, he is taught how to read off of old bottles of aspirin by his father, and he is taught how to commit suicide by his father… should the cannibals ever find him.

According to McCarthy, a lot of the conversations held between father and son in this book were based off of actual conversations that he held with his own son.  Although McCarthy was embarrassed to admit it, he did acknowledge The Road to be a sort of father/son love story that was largely inspired by his own experiences.

The Road is a book of suffering, but it documents humanity’s will to survive.  The story seems to say: despite all of the evil and darkness found in the world, there is still hope when there is love.   With love in your heart a person can find the will to live.

Score: 9.6

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