Monday, December 29, 2008

The Road

by Cormac McCarthy

This is an incredibly gripping book. I ended up reading the whole thing in two days, because I found that it was very difficult to concentrate on anything else during times when I wasn't reading it.

McCarthy has always impressed me with the sparseness of his writing - he gives readers only the most necessary of details for most of a book, and then at times zooms into a scene with a precise attention to small details. This book is much easier to read than his other work - he still employs his own approach to syntax at times - and it lacks the baroque violence of a book like 'Blood Meridian', but it is taut with suspense from the first page.

A man and his son are walking. The world has ended, for all intents and purposes, and they are heading south through the blasted landscape of America in the hopes that things are better there. They meet few people along the way, and they are none of them to be trusted. Society has devolved into roaming bandits and road agents, with the occasional militia dragging their slaves and prisoners along with them. There is little left to scavenge, and people have resorted to cannibalism.

McCarthy establishes early in the book that things can change at a moment notice, and so some of the most tense parts for me were the ones in which our protagonists felt themselves to be at peace or safe. McCarthy has always written about men who are mostly silent, and his unnamed protagonists fall into that category; yet the lack of dialogue speaks volumes of the love they feel for each other.

This is going to be released soon as a movie, and I'll be curious to see if they are able to maintain the tension of the book, or if it's going to be a Hollywood spectacle instead.

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