Once in a lifetime, I read a book like this. I found it through an ultra-runner who was talking about the author and I thought, what the hell, I’ll look him up. “The Road” was short and looked like an easy read from the preview on Amazon. I bought it and spent the entire day reading it. Then re-reading it. Then reading it again in 2017.
The Road is unlike any other book I’ve read for a number of reasons. For one, it was written with bare-bones punctuation. I love that. The way books should be. Do I dare try it with one of my fiction books? Hell no, I’d be crucified. Only a master can get away with it. Any Amazon reviewer with ten-fingers would write me a negative review if I dared to copy Cormac’s style.
The Road was bleak. I mean bleaker than anything I’ve ever read. The story was written in a style where little is said, but what is there just shows how dreary and hopeless life in that world is. Because there is little described, the reader’s mind makes up the rest. Was it 2017? Where were they? Guess my mind can really create a nightmare scenario because this book was so real to me, so dark.
What is the story about? I’ll leave it to this Amazon review by JLind555…
“The Road” is a work of stunning, savage, heartbreaking beauty. Set in the post-apocalyptic hell of an unending nuclear winter, Cormac McCarthy writes about a nameless man and his young son, wandering through a world gone crazy; bleak, cold, dark, where the snow falls down gray; moving south toward the coast, looking somewhere, anywhere, for life and warmth. Nothing grows in this blasted world; people turn into cannibals to survive. We don’t know if we’re looking at the aftermath of a nuclear war, or maybe an extinction level event — an asteroid or a comet; McCarthy deliberately doesn’t tell us, and we come to realize it doesn’t matter anyway. Whether man or nature threw a wild pitch, the world is just as dead.
The boy’s mother is a suicide, unable to face living in a world where everything’s gone gray and dead. Keep on living and you’ll end up raped and murdered along with everybody else, she tells the man. The man and his son are “each the other’s world entire”; they have only each other, they live for each other, and their intense love for each other will help them survive. At least for a while.
Published 2006. I last read on Kindle in January 2017.
1. Cover – Weak. 0/5. No attempt made at creating a cover that was descriptive of the story. Probably because it would influence the pictures in the reader’s head. Black and white and matches the story – never-ending bleakness and no hope to be found anywhere.
2. Believability Overall – High. 5/5. We all know the end of the world is coming. We have no real reason to fight wars anymore for any good reason, so they’re fought over power now. The USA seems bent on running the entire planet. We’re in the best position to try it – and if China, the Soviet Union, and a couple other major powers fight it too hard – we’ll be back at war before we know it.
The nuclear nightmare scenario is just a matter of time. We’ve all spent time thinking about it, wondering what it might be like. It seems to me that it might be JUST LIKE THIS STORY. That’s why it’s so real and scary to me.
The fact that the protagonist has his young son with him – makes it that much more horrific for me. I have a young daughter around the same age.
3. Character Development? Medium. 3/5. In this case, character development doesn’t mean much. It doesn’t matter much where the guy came from, what he did before, who his friends were, whether he played sports in high school or whether he was the homecoming king. He could be anyone. That’s the scary part. He could be you. His son could be your son. That shopping cart you see the homeless guy clinging to down the block, could be the one YOU are pushing around for the next few months as you try to guess where to go that might be safe for your kid.
4. Character Believability – High. 5/5. There will be guys just like this walking around when shit hits the fan. Hell, it might be you.
5. Research – Not sure there was much research needed. I think CM could have written this all off the top of his head. There are no real hard facts or anything technical that might require research. This is a low-tech story, and it doesn’t need tech – just bare emotion, the search for safety, the unbelievably disastrous circumstances and environment is enough.
6. Coolness Factor – 5/5. Dystopian fiction is one of my favorites. There is something about hopelessness that really grabs me. I guess it’s because I’m so hopeful every day I wake up and see the sun come up. I’m never pessimistic. I’m never in survival mode. I’m never wondering, where is a safe place for my kid. I’m never wondering where can I get food, water, gas, warmth, etc. This book put me in another world, one that I have no familiarity with – and that really felt good in the most twisted way. I couldn’t read many of these books in a row, but this one was perfect for me.
7. Amazon Reviews – 4 out of 5 Stars, 4,262 reviewers! There is something Oh So Horribly Wrong when this book doesn’t rate higher than that POS book I just read, “Sphere” by Michael Crichton. More evidence that the readers at Amazon don’t know a damn thing. The collective IQ of that bunch must be in the high 80’s. Max.
8. Reviewers – This book is a Pulitzer Prize winner. It’s a masterpiece. Thankfully a bunch of critics said the same. Who could argue with this? I’ll have to throw in a couple negative reviews from the Amazon peanut-gallery just for fun at the bottom of this.
9. Feature Film – I haven’t seen the movie yet. I think the book is more than enough for me, and the movie would likely take some of the brilliance away from the story for me.
10. Similar Writers – If you liked Cormac McCarthy, I’m sorry, I don’t have even one suggestion for another writer you may enjoy reading. He is pretty much a standalone anomaly without peers.
PULITZER PRIZE WINNER
National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist
A New York Times Notable Book
One of the Best Books of the Year
The Boston Globe, The Christian Science Monitor, The Denver Post, The Kansas City Star, Los Angeles Times, New York, People, Rocky Mountain News, Time, The Village Voice, The Washington Post
Negative Reviews from Amazon–
Depressing and sad. 1 out of 5 stars. Lack of the usual form of dialogue made this book very confusing. I had to re-read some passages of dialogue to get the proper character sequence. I liked the story, characters and events, but if you’re looking for a basic book to kick back and enjoy, this one is not it. I cannot remember reading a more depressing book. And I found myself furious with the author in the end. How could he do that? The way it ended was not realistic with parka man conveniently finding the survivor. Sorry, but I just couldn’t recommend it.
Disappointment. 1 out of 5 stars. Very disappointing. Story never expanded or developed much…just the man and boy walking down the road and meeting “bad” people who all tried to kill them. Was actually relieved the man died just to put this book “out of its misery”. Can’t believe it won an award. Literary standards must have been lowered considerably. It appeared that the author just grabbed a thesaurus and went wild to make it appear that there was an attempt at being descriptive. UGH!
and one more review of “The Road” that was hilarious because the person is so clueless…
No thanks. 1 out of 5 stars. Has the author ever heard of punctuation? Good grief. I edited the sentences as I read them in my head. It became distracting and simply took away any enjoyment that could be found in reading it. I’m a fan of word descriptions, however he went way over the top with them. I got the impression the author was trying to impress (he obviously did from many of the reviews) and get praise which just turned me off. Couldn’t finish it. Won’t finish it.
So, apparently there were people who just didn’t ‘get it.’ It happens.
Similar Stories: I don’t know any other similar books. Of course the apocolyptic thriller has plenty of company on Amazon, but I haven’t read one just like this before.
What I Learned About Writing:
I learned so much reading this book over and over.
Only a master can write how he wants to write and not be crucified for it. Amazon reviewers as a collective group – are clueless as F. Sometimes a story need not describe every single detail – it is much better when your mind gets to fill in the blanks and flesh out the story. Character development is sometimes not necessary at all.
Like all the books I’ve read so far, good and bad, I have certainly been inspired by Cormac McCarthy’s, The Road!
Read this book in 2017 – you won’t regret it.