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The Road by Cormac McCarthy
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Mar 07, 12

When I was a teen-ager I went through a role-playing game phase. Yes, I admit it, I was a D&D nerd. Thankfully, it never really stuck, but during that phase, I also dabbled in a similar game called Gamma World, basically a post nuclear apocalypse version of D&D, with radioactive zombies instead of orcs. I am pretty sure Cormac McCarthy spent time with this game as well, as "The Road" seems to be set in a Gamma World adventure. Which is a bit odd in it's own right, as the very scenario - a destroyed world after a large scale nuclear war - is a fairly dated storytelling device. (The political argument as to its current possibility can be waged elsewhere.) So, unable to shake the faintly remembered images of "The Day After" from my head, I launched into reading this otherwise very compelling novel.

Compelling, that is, except that it is an unrelenting hammer of desolation and despair. I mean, it is good, the characters (although unnamed) are complete. Pale against the ashen backdrop of the ruined world, but still human. As whittled down to a delicate edge as they are in the face of their situation, they feel like people in that world. Not caricatures. Hard to describe, really, as even the writing style is so terse and devoid of emotion. It reflects the world the story inhabits, and yet it all works so well that it becomes very real. Like I said, good. But...

Everyone you love is dead, the world is finished, and the remaining souls are cannibals who want to eat you and your child. It is a tough read. Proceed with caution.

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