This review contains spoilers, but at least read this far:don't read this book. This book is vile. This book is a lie. It is a festering wasteland of despair and sadistic pathos pretending to contain some freakish remnant of love.
A father and son stumble through a dead killing land in the empty hope that life might actually survive at some coastline to the south.
Something has killed everything but humans, leaving the unlucky survivors to rot away in a hell of starvation and scavenging and the constant dread of roving bands of cannibals.
The death that has turned the world gray has apparently killed the birds, the fish and every single plant though hundreds of miles of trudging, many years after the cataclysm -- and every corpse mummifies, so perhaps even the microbes and fungi are dead? Yet wounds can still fester and old food goes bad.
So this must be somehow allegorical -- but what awesome hopelessness is McCarthy trying to illuminate? This is a story of humans that have become the walking dead. McCarthy and his characters have apparently confused the will to survive and sustain some pitiful remnant of decency as if it is meaningful and a reason to persist in a supremely hopeless existence.
The author is a mighty craftsman with his prose, and the story is haunting -- but the final result is a foul nightmare, best forgotten.
Despite the obvious need for mayhem and gore in a book dealing with Zombies, this turned out not to actually be a horror story. The war has been overDespite the obvious need for mayhem and gore in a book dealing with Zombies, this turned out not to actually be a horror story. The war has been over for about ten years — although there are still “white zones” where the undead are dominant, those are small portions of the globe. During the heart of the war, many thought the human species was headed for a quick extinction, so the story is actually post-apocalyptic and fairly optimistic.
It’s a clever book, and well written enough to be worthwhile, but this isn’t a book that would change anyone’s life or beliefs.
A few reviewers here comment that this book is heavily anti-government, but I didn’t see that as an overriding ideological message — more an obvious plot device, just as condemnation of Chamberlain’s appeasement or the defeatist defensiveness of the general staff of France made sense once everyone realized how foolish those policies had been. Attacks on ineptitude and corruption do not add up to a political manifesto.
My primary difficulty with the book is the lack of scientific plausibility. I Am Legend dealt with a microbe that infected the living; even though it miraculously reanimated the dead, it at least began to introduce an element of believability. I understand the movie 28 Days Later... switched completely to a disease model, although behavioral changes upon infection were still absurdly quick.
Animation of the dead is simply asking me to suspend too much disbelief in a modern zombie tale. If the zombie is moving purposefully, its muscles are expending energy. That requires functioning life: a circulatory system to bring fresh sugar to a cell’s mitochondria, a digestive system to feed the metabolism, a nervous system to provide direction... that stuff. In order to make his zombies as devastatingly potent as possible, Brooks turned them into perpetual motion machines. In my book, that qualifies as fantasy, and unfortunately in this case not well-crafted fantasy. ...more
I feel a little bad giving this only three stars, seeing how fond many people are of it — but three stars is "liked it", and I can't dredge up the enthusiasm for "really liked it."
There is a certain kind of "funny" that I often don't "get" — or more precisely, I get that it is funny, but I can't overlook flaws that other folks can. For example, I didn't like Seinfeld for the same reason I didn't enjoy Mark Twain'sA Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court: the humor was too misanthropic. Pratchett and Gaiman'sGood Omens doesn't have that problem, of course, but suffers from what I would call the let's-be-silly! syndrome, in which the joy of silliness crowds out editorial caution. At the nadir, the result is pure idiocy (see Bean or Benny Hill).
In its best forms, such childish silliness can be mixed with strictly adult forms of humor, such as satire and irony, to create the best amalgam. This is what Monty Python achieved when they were at their best. (P.G. Wodehouse was another master.)
To give them credit, Pratchett and Gaiman occasionally get this good. The problem is that in the long form of a novel such heights are well-nigh impossible to sustain, and the effort gets tiresome. Any connoisseur of Monty Python knows that the television show was skit-based for a good reason: the hit-or-miss nature of their objective is very fragile. The miracle of the Monty Python movie The Holy Grail is that it works for so long; and that just as it starts to pall, they recognize the fact and turn their attention to making fun of that.
The introductory pages of Good Omens are among the worst in this regard: the level of absurdity will be grating to those that have learned to distrust this form of writing. But the silliness subsides, and seldom becomes so wearisome again. I think it might be possible to plot the separate sine waves of cleverness and silliness, almost like the novel's biorhythm. There is a third highlight; a note of sweetness mostly at the end that seems a bit off — neither author seems too experienced with innocence and earnestness, so we can be thankful it doesn't last too long.
For people that delight in silliness, the book will be a wonder. For the rest of us, it is still a worthwhile read. Two very clever authors had a bit of synergy going, so the feats of imagination are quite impressive.