If you like your fiction to have an equitable balance of light and shade, peopled by a galaxy of interesting characters and interspersed with humour and social interaction, then The Road is certainly not for you. However, to cast this book aside would be to miss one of the most extraordinary feats of imaginative world painting in modern literature. McCarthy's subject is as bleak as it is possible to imagine: a post apocalyptic planet Earth in perpetual nuclear winter where the landscape is dead or dying covered in a ubiquitous black ash slowly choking and silencing every living thing. It is a world without sun, animals, and plants where a few humans scavenge to survive abandoning all compassion and morality to do so. Amidst this nightmare a father and his son are found trekking across the wasteland of the United States heading for the coast hoping to find something in a world where hope has ceased to exist. It is their story which holds our attention: amidst the endless desolation and as they battle to survive, McCarthy explores the doubts, suspicions, loyalties and trade offs which typify any filial bond with enormous sensitivity and perception. Yet this pair must face questions unlikely to have been faced by many in any era: what is the point of life when the world as we know it is just a disappearing memory in the mind of a father whose son knows only a world of emptiness? Why try to survive when there is no chance of life being sustained over the long term? Ultimately they find purpose in their own inter-dependence wherein they learn to find all meaning and incentive. This subject is not a new one of course, but what makes The Road so compelling is the author's ability to create this grey, desolate world with such sustained authority and conviction: never once does the curtain of illusion fall, not for a second is the spell broken: we walk the endless highways of nothingness, we ponder where the next can of food might be found, we share the fear that round the next corner might be a marauding armed gang ready to kill for a bottle of water. Beginning from a canvas painted with almost photographic realism, the writer affords his subject an almost allegorical form in order to ponder the philosophical issues raised by the annihilation of the earth and the consideration of what it means to live without expectation of a future. Written in shorn down, skeletal prose with not a single redundant phrase, McCarthy has created an unforgettable and profoundly moving meditation on what it is to be human in a world almost beyond the comprehension of mankind. A stunning achievement.