Brenton Nichol's Reviews > The Road

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
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Mar 20, 09

bookshelves: drama, speculative-fiction
Read in March, 2009

What a great story. As one reviewer notes in the jacket blurbs, you can't put it down once you start it; I read the whole thing in one day. It's been quite a while since I read a book in one day.

The Road follows a young boy and his father as they trek south through what used to be the Appalachian mountains and the Southern U.S. after an unspecified apocalyptic event. The father has vague hopes that the coast will somehow provide some vestige of human society. The reader soon begins to form conjectures concerning whether or not there is anything left for them to find, anywhere. Their journey brings them only through burnt out cities, abandoned farms and towns, and occasional survivors who are losing their humanity, all dusted with blowing ash.

Sometimes I like it when events that form backdrops to a story are left vague; other times I really want to know what happened. I bounced back and forth between those while reading The Road. Something apocalyptic turned earth into a dead world of ash and snow. The only clue given concerning the cause is one small section of flashback in which the father hears distant concussive thuds late at night. That is all. Were they thermonuclear warheads, indicative of a resurgent Cold War that finally broke and wiped out the entire Northern Hemisphere? The father and son never see stars at night, and soon you realize that the entire earth is wrapped in a cloak of airborne ash, much like the speculated clouds of darkness that killed off most living things at the end of the Cretaceous following a huge meteorite strike. Is that what those explosions in the night were, fragments of extraterrestrial rock?

I asked myself this because I wanted the father and son to find something; I wanted to know that humanity would somehow go on in a way more noble than the cannibal horrors lurking in crumbling, abandoned Southern manors like Lovecraft transmuted to a purely terrestrial post-apocalypse. So of course I wondered about the nature of the destruction, and whether it would have allowed for anything significant to survive, reform, and triumph.

But of course that's the science fiction fan in me thinking, wondering how humanity as a whole will adapt or even if it can; that's largely the purpose of SF, dealing with "what if?" questions. McCarthy here uses a "what if?" merely as a backdrop against which he writes beautifully of a father and a son and the relationship they have. I kept wanting to think about the possibility of humanity's survival in a societal sense, but could not escape the fact that McCarthy, in The Road, writes about the survival of one single relationship. He writes a human drama, and it is trust, hope, self-sacrifice, and love that ultimately concern this story, as those are the things that keep father and son truly human in the face of destruction.
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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Kelly I can't tell you how much I loved this book...can't wait to hear what you think.
Miss you!


Brenton Nichol Well, there's my completed review. I miss you too!


Khris Great review! You should review professionally! If you like his stuff, you'll have to read some of his earlier stuff. Blood Meridian is good, too. Next to Raymond Carver, he's one of my favorite authors.


message 4: by Susan (new)

Susan Stephen King's novels frequently have a father and sone that survive the horrors (sacrificing the romantic interest in the course of the plot).


message 5: by Brenton (last edited Mar 22, 2009 12:23PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brenton Nichol Khristine - thanks! You're not the first person to tell me that. I'd like to look into it...but I'm not sure where to start! I do plan to read more of McCarthy's books at some point, probably starting with No Country For Old Men.

Susan - yes, I haven't read much King at all, but I was reminded of The Myst, and almost made a comparison but left that out for the sake of brevity (did you read my Lovecraft review!?). I was going to mention how The Myst, as I recall, is largely about maintaining hope in the face of an uncertain future, and that this is a lot like that but I think is even more about maintaining love.


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