Samadrita's Reviews > The Road

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
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Terror. Stark naked, clear as the day and indelible in its intensity. Terror that turns its unflinching gaze on you, commanding you to quake in your boots and disintegrate into pieces. This book is that kind of cold dread that seeps into your blood like insidious venom and drains away your strength in a steady, agonizing trickle as you read along. The horror of being stranded in a world, where the living live on either to become sustenance for other survivors or to hunt and feast on fellow brethren to survive, becomes as real as the morning sunlight pouring in to your room through the gauzy curtains.

The trouble with dystopian fiction (literary and otherwise) is that if you have read one book from the genre you have pretty much read them all. And the rather unabashed confession I have to make in this regard is that I have read quite a lot of them - this is the 'guilty pleasure' I am not really guilty of indulging in once in a while. But when the focus of the discussion on dystopias shifts to a universally read book like 'The Road' then opinions range from acerbically negative criticism, a patronizing, reluctant pat on the back to disappointed neutrality and effusive praise. Cormac McCarthy's prose has also garnered less than enthusiastic responses from quite a significant number of reviewers. I suppose some thought his metaphors to be too flowery for their taste. While the rest have found him to be repetitive and dull.

Fair enough. But I did not.

To bring to life a world, where there's nothing left to do except scrounge around for nourishment, it is obvious the author will be hard pressed to elaborately detail the act of unscrewing a jar top and drinking from it. The monotone adopted while chronicling these trivial actions conveys the chilling truth of how much gravity is being accorded to affairs considered undeserving of even a passing mention in a former way of life.

Thus, I refuse to join in the chorus of complaints. The very visceral and undiluted reaction the narrative elicited from me as a reader, caused me to refrain from belittling McCarthy's gift for utilizing the same old genre tropes to offer such insightful commentary on the human condition. And despite its bleak and nihilistic leanings, 'The Road' surprised me with its deft handling of a subject as sensitive as a parent-child relationship, a theme that is often explored in many fictional narratives but with varying degrees of success. More than any tear-inducing gimmickry, the relationship depicted here bears a frighteningly close resemblance to how things are in reality.

Our two unnamed vagrants, a listless father-son duo, who move down this seemingly endless road strewn with the debris of a world long gone and the echoes of a way of life no longer preserved, seemed to me to be representatives of a large majority of humans. The father acts as a kind of misery-sponge, enduring the brunt of all the vicissitudes of fate that await them on this cruel and unforgiving peregrination, while shielding the son from the same. And as the toil of this godforsaken journey wears the parent down to the point of no return, the child is familiarized with the brutalities of the world at large and gently shown the ways in which one can side-step all the unpleasantness and maintain an existence without challenging authority in any form. Isn't this what a majority of humans have been seeking to accomplish on an infinite loop? 'Survive and don't ask for trouble in any form.' is the motto etched onto the blank slate of our minds since childhood.

All the horrors lying in ambush for this father-son pair, starting from chance encounters with roving bands of cannibals to combating the evident threat of starvation and the bitter cold which freezes them to the bone, can be taken to be allegories of all the challenges of living that individually all of us have to contend with. The metaphorical road is just another minefield where one can never foresee the kind of evils one wrong step may unleash. All the lawless laws, by which the world is governed once the formerly established edifice of order and organization has crumbled to dust, are deeply reminiscent of the relentless cycle of injustices institutionalized by our so-called 'civilization'. Just as the weak are preyed upon and devoured alive in this dystopia, the downtrodden and oppressed are victims of a sort of economic cannibalism enshrined in the 'laws' of our reality.

The scales are tipped ever in the favor of those who wield power in some form; in this dystopia it is the possession of a weapon, in ours it is the ownership of wealth.
"The last instance of a thing takes the class with it. Turns out the light and is gone. Look around you. Ever is a long time. But the boy knew what he knew. That ever is no time at all."

It disturbs me how near invisible the line of separation between an imagined dystopia and a real one is.
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Quotes Samadrita Liked

Cormac McCarthy
“Nobody wants to be here and nobody wants to leave.”
Cormac McCarthy, The Road
tags: life

Cormac McCarthy
“People were always getting ready for tomorrow. I didn't believe in that. Tomorrow wasn't getting ready for them. It didn't even know they were there.”
Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Cormac McCarthy
“There is no God and we are his prophets.”
Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Cormac McCarthy
“You forget what you want to remember, and you remember what you want to forget.”
Cormac McCarthy, The Road


Reading Progress

March 19, 2014 – Started Reading
March 20, 2014 – Shelved
March 20, 2014 – Shelved as: 1001-and-more
March 20, 2014 – Shelved as: cherished
March 20, 2014 – Shelved as: disturbia
March 20, 2014 – Shelved as: dystopian-fiction
March 20, 2014 – Shelved as: gave-me-misty-eyes
March 20, 2014 – Shelved as: in-by-about-america
March 20, 2014 – Shelved as: gory-book-is-gory
March 20, 2014 – Shelved as: melancholia
March 20, 2014 – Shelved as: post-apocalyptic
March 20, 2014 – Shelved as: spookfest
March 20, 2014 – Finished Reading
March 21, 2014 – Shelved as: pulitzer

Comments Showing 1-48 of 48 (48 new)

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Arah-Lynda You sum up the feeling this book left in me very well in the last line of your review. Well said.


message 2: by Rakhi (new)

Rakhi Dalal Deft review,Samadrita. Sent a chill down the spine with your last line. And reminded me again of "Paradise lost".


message 3: by Garima (new)

Garima Excellent review, fraught with profound and ingenious expression. I have watched the movie and immediately after that, I kind of skimmed through the book so I know the feeling, both visual and written. I empathise with your reaction here and loved this line:

The monotone adopted while chronicling these trivial actions conveys the chilling truth of how much gravity is being accorded to affairs considered undeserving of even a passing mention in a former way of life.

Well said and well done!


Samadrita Arah-Lynda wrote: "You sum up the feeling this book left in me very well in the last line of your review. Well said."

Thanks, Arah-Lynda. I am glad our sentiments are the same regarding this book.


Samadrita Rakhi wrote: "Deft review,Samadrita. Sent a chill down the spine with your last line. And reminded me again of "Paradise lost"."

And this makes reading Milton a must for me although the very name 'Paradise Lost' is enough to send chills down the spine of any reader - a veritable challenge if there was one I assume.
Thank you for reading, Rakhi. :)


Samadrita Garima wrote: "Excellent review, fraught with profound and ingenious expression. I have watched the movie and immediately after that, I kind of skimmed through the book so I know the feeling, both visual and writ..."

So glad you understand my reason for defending McCarthy's writing, Garima. :) I am eager to know how you may react to the book when you read it in entirety.
I totally didn't know there was a movie adaptation.


message 7: by Kalliope (new)

Kalliope I am not one for dystopias.. We have enough troubles around.. but you deal with this one in an intelligent way.


binnudeya You summed up the whole reading experience so beautifully! great review as always :)


Samadrita Kalliope wrote: "I am not one for dystopias.. We have enough troubles around.. but you deal with this one in an intelligent way."

Thanks, Kall. I am glad you feel so.


Samadrita binnudeya wrote: "You summed up the whole reading experience so beautifully! great review as always :)"

Great to know we're on the same page about this book, binnudeya. Thank you for reading.


Srinivas this book creeps into consciousness and fills with fear.

the ending is what disappointed me and made me to give 3 stars. otherwise the book is a fictitious example of emerging dystopian society of ours....

nice review....

what do you think about ending?


message 12: by Jr (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jr Bacdayan Piercing review, Samadrita. Amazing. Haunting last line. Your review had me remembering the chills I felt when I read the book. "It disturbs me how near invisible the line of separation between an imagined dystopia and a real one is." Indeed.


Samadrita nomad wrote: "this book creeps into consciousness and fills with fear.

the ending is what disappointed me and made me to give 3 stars. otherwise the book is a fictitious example of emerging dystopian society of..."


Thank you, nomad. The ending was a mixed bag for me...(view spoiler)


Samadrita Jr wrote: "Piercing review, Samadrita. Amazing. Haunting last line. Your review had me remembering the chills I felt when I read the book. "It disturbs me how near invisible the line of separation between an ..."

Thank you, Jr. Glad our opinions regarding this book are in sync.


Veeral Great review as always, Samadrita.

But frankly, I am not a fan of this book. I too read a lot of post-apocalyptic fiction and I have read this sort of thing many times over. Scraping tins, foraging for food... it's all good... but tell me something I haven't read before, Cormac, or share your Pulitzer with every other author of post-apocalyptic books.

I know it's a bad habit to recommend alternate books on someone's review, but I am going to do it anyhow. :p

Check out Immobility and Far North. These are also very good books. But they don't get the attention they deserve.


Samadrita Veeral wrote: "Great review as always, Samadrita.

But frankly, I am not a fan of this book. I too read a lot of post-apocalyptic fiction and I have read this sort of thing many times over. Scraping tins, foragi..."


Hey I am always happy to receive recommendations in comments. I disagree with his Pulitzer win being undeserved though. Of the many number of dystopias I have read, the horror and the bleakness in this one is more acute and pronounced. I cannot explain properly why this seemed to be the case but it is obvious that the book was not written with the purpose of adding to the volume of adventurous stories of survival or simply to provide edge-of-the-seat suspense moments to a prospective reader.

Those books you recommended look good. I'll add them to the tbr right away.


message 17: by Praj (new) - rated it 4 stars

Praj Stunning piece of work!


message 18: by Dolors (last edited Mar 25, 2014 01:09PM) (new)

Dolors I have watched several of McCarthy's adaptations on the big screen and after reading this review I am screaming abuse at myself for not having read any of his novels. Powerful writing that delves deep into the psyche of the characters and seeks for underlying meaning, finding parallelisms between fiction and reality and urging this humble reader to ponder once more about the power of words. Haunting thoughts, perfectly matched with that black cover crowning yet another masterful review. I simply love your writing style Samadrita, natural, poignant and elegant as ever.


Lawyer Samadrita, you do great justice to a novel that deserves it. This is no simple dystopian novel. The relationship between the father and son raise the level of literature seldom found in other dystopian fiction.

What amazes me about McCarthy is his ability to move from genre to genre. In the past I have referred to him as a chameleon, capable of changing from one form to another with incredible ease.

McCarthy has gone through three distinct changes. Beginning with his Southern Quartet. As he was putting the finishing touches on Suttree, McCarthy had already moved to Texas where he produced Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West, transitioning from Southern to Western. He completely departs from the blend of South and West to The Border Trilogy: All the Pretty Horses, The Crossing, Cities of the Plain. shocks us with No Country for Old Men, and in The Road emerges as pure post modern. I was not surprised that he captured the Pulitzer with The Road.

Your review captures the essence and spirit of The Road. Beautifully rendered.


Veeral Samadrita wrote: "Of the many number of dystopias I have read, the horror and the bleakness in this one is more acute and pronounced. I cannot explain properly why this seemed to be the case but it is obvious that the book was not written with the purpose of adding to the volume of adventurous stories of survival or simply to provide edge-of-the-seat suspense moments to a prospective reader."

Some of the bleakest post-apocalyptic books that I have read are -
Level 7 and The Death of Grass. And of course The Handmaid's Tale, but it is more dystopian, not post-apocalyptic. And if you are looking for challenging post-apocalyptic books then you won't find anything better than Riddley Walker, The Slynx or Stand on Zanzibar. Riddley and Slynx are post-apocalyptic and Zanzibar could be categorized as dystopian.

But nothing beats 1984, the ultimate dystopia. It's my favorite book in the genre, and I have read it only once. And I don't want to read it ever again.


message 21: by Warwick (new)

Warwick Lovely review. I enjoy McCarthy's writing style but I feel very little desire to put myself through this one…


Samadrita Praj wrote: "Stunning piece of work!"

Yay I am glad you liked this book too, Praj.


Samadrita Dolors wrote: "I have watched several of McCarthy's adaptations on the big screen and after reading this review I am screaming abuse at myself for not having read any of his novels. Powerful writing that delves d..."

Thank you, lovely Dolors, for your thoughtfully phrased, elegant comment. Your praise for the movie adaptations reminds me of my steadily elongating to-watch list. Really need to get back to movie-watching.


Samadrita Mike wrote: "Samadrita, you do great justice to a novel that deserves it. This is no simple dystopian novel. The relationship between the father and son raise the level of literature seldom found in other dys..."

Glad you felt so, Mike. I am yet to explore more of McCarthy's oeuvre. I think I may skip Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West because the graphic violence may overwhelm me (saving it for some time in the distant future maybe) and read Suttree next.


Samadrita Veeral wrote: "Samadrita wrote: "Of the many number of dystopias I have read, the horror and the bleakness in this one is more acute and pronounced. I cannot explain properly why this seemed to be the case but it..."

The Slynx is already on my list and yes 1984...something needs to be done about it. And The Handmaid's Tale, till date, remains the most frightening dystopian novel I read. I read a part of it a long time ago and then discontinued reading for some reason. Must tick that to-read item off my list soon. Also you are like a dystopian book catalog. Thank you for so many recommendations, Veeral.


Samadrita Warwick wrote: "Lovely review. I enjoy McCarthy's writing style but I feel very little desire to put myself through this one…"

I adore his writing style too. Must get myself some more McCarthy and soon. Thanks for reading, Warwick.


message 27: by [deleted user] (new)

Samadrita, you have written an outstanding review that makes the case for this work being a premier work of dystopian fiction. Your very haunting conclusion about the invisible line between the imaginary and the real give me much more to think about.


Samadrita Steve Sckenda wrote: "Samadrita, you have written an outstanding review that makes the case for this work being a premier work of dystopian fiction. Your very haunting conclusion about the invisible line between the ima..."

Thank you for reading, Steve. I am glad our sentiments regarding this book are so similar.


message 29: by Sue (new)

Sue While this is not a book that I am likely to read, your review is excellent and gives such a sense, not only of the book and it's story, but of our culture. Amazingly well done.


Samadrita Sue wrote: "While this is not a book that I am likely to read, your review is excellent and gives such a sense, not only of the book and it's story, but of our culture. Amazingly well done."

Thank you, Sue. I am glad you liked the review even though the book is of no interest to you.


message 31: by Harry (new)

Harry I like the way you analyze books, Samadrita. Your reading habits are wide ranging (I like that too!) and usually the reviews spot-on. It's interesting...after 911 here in the states, we witnessed an abandonment of false abstractions and contrasting political views, where a nation (albeit for only a few months) became one. A threat to annihilation reduced us all to the few basic values that we all share in common - but only initially.

Dystopias seem to look at that period that takes place after "prolonged" and/or widespread annihilation and how the very opposite takes place - every man for himself, lawlessness and a list of horrors to follow. A distinction between the duration and measure of an event vs. the event itself.

Although I don't read many dystopias, I'd think they rather accurately, albeit indirectly, also point to what is good and needed in society, via the description of a world where such things are absent.

Great review!


Samadrita Harry wrote: "I like the way you analyze books, Samadrita. Your reading habits are wide ranging (I like that too!) and usually the reviews spot-on. It's interesting...after 911 here in the states, we witnessed..."

My reading habits have always been all over the place...I read everything and anything. Your observation regarding the parallelism between dystopian fiction and the real world scenario is spot on, Harry. And I am happy you agree with my analysis.


Cecily Another eloquent review, and given how you write, I don't think you should feel guilty about how many dystopias you have read!


Samadrita Cecily wrote: "Another eloquent review, and given how you write, I don't think you should feel guilty about how many dystopias you have read!"

Thanks once again, Cecily. I have had a great Monday morning replying to your wonderful comments on my reviews.


Jareed I'm adding this to my tbr list solely because of this review! Magnificent! :)


Cecily I'm sure you won't be disappointed, Jareed, but be prepared for an extreme lack of punctuation, which some find unbearably distracting. The language is pared down to match the story. Think of it as a long prose poem, rather than a conventional novel.


Jareed Thanks for that heads up Cecily!


Samadrita Jareed wrote: "I'm adding this to my tbr list solely because of this review! Magnificent! :)"

Thanks, Jareed. Hope you have a wonderful time with the book despite its lack of punctuation marks as pointed out by Cecily.


message 39: by Hershey (new) - added it

Hershey Beautiful review!


Samadrita Hershey wrote: "Beautiful review!"

Thank you, Hershey.


message 41: by Leo (new) - rated it 3 stars

Leo Robertson Read this and was about to like it- but I already had!!! :D


Samadrita Leo wrote: "Read this and was about to like it- but I already had!!! :D"

Glad you did, Leo. :)


message 43: by Lynne (last edited Aug 09, 2015 04:03AM) (new) - added it

Lynne King A splendid review Samadrita. I'm sorry I missed it but last year was a "lost one" for me and that is my excuse.

I'm not really into dystopian fiction but for some obscure reason this book appeals to me. No doubt due to your rather good review! So I will buy it!

I've managed to acquire a good second-hand hardback from France. I love second-hand books as they always come with a history....


Samadrita Lynne wrote: "A splendid review Samadrita. I'm sorry I missed it but last year was a "lost one" for me and that is my excuse.

I'm not really into dystopian fiction but for some obscure reason this book appeals ..."


Even though there is nothing quite enjoyable in this dystopia of McCarthy's imagination, hopefully his craft will grab your attention and hold it, Lynne. Glad to know the review piqued your interest.


David Goode "Thus, I refuse to join in the chorus of complaints. The very visceral and undiluted reaction the narrative elicited from me as a reader, caused me to refrain from belittling McCarthy's gift for utilizing the same old genre tropes to offer such insightful commentary on the human condition. And despite its bleak and nihilistic leanings, 'The Road' surprised me with its deft handling of a subject as sensitive as a parent-child relationship, a theme that is often explored in many fictional narratives but with varying degrees of success. More than any tear-inducing gimmickry, the relationship depicted here bears a frighteningly close resemblance to how things are in reality."

Brilliant review Samadrita. I 100% agree with your sentiments highlighted above. I was fully submersed in his world, and I thought his plodding style was fully responsible for that.


Samadrita David wrote: ""Thus, I refuse to join in the chorus of complaints. The very visceral and undiluted reaction the narrative elicited from me as a reader, caused me to refrain from belittling McCarthy's gift for ut..."

I am glad you loved the book, David.


message 47: by Hanneke (last edited Aug 24, 2015 08:55AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hanneke Terrific review, Samadrita. This book filled me with the doom and the cold dread you mention in the first paragraph. Thinking about it, I see dirty grey cold landscapes and two people passing through. No, not pleasant at all to see them move onwards. Special book, no doubt about it.


Samadrita Hanneke wrote: "Terrific review, Samadrita. This book filled me with the doom and the cold dread you mention in the first paragraph. Thinking about it, I see dirty grey cold landscapes and two people passing throu..."

I agree the book is chilling in its implications and unremitting bleakness. I am glad you liked the review.


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