87 of 92 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stark, terrible, powerful
Don't start with any illusions of this book - it isn't a story. There isn't a beginning and a middle and a neat end. The plot does not develop in any significant way. What you get is a ride of pure emotion, that is of an intensity that I've not really seen matched anywhere else. This isn't a tale about the end of the world. This is what it looks like at the end of the...
Published on 13 Aug 2007 by R. B. Moore
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars If you only read one post apocalyptic novel...
...then don't read this one. No, that's probably a bit unfair. This wasn't a bad book, it just wasn't a great one either. At the start I really struggled to get into it and I found McCarthy's style a bit off-putting. Around the twenty or thirty page mark, however, I either adjusted to it or it started to flow a little bit better and I was suddenly a bit more engaged...
Published on 24 Mar 2011 by Cuban Heel
Most Helpful First | Newest First
87 of 92 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stark, terrible, powerful,
This review is from: The Road (Paperback)Don't start with any illusions of this book - it isn't a story. There isn't a beginning and a middle and a neat end. The plot does not develop in any significant way. What you get is a ride of pure emotion, that is of an intensity that I've not really seen matched anywhere else. This isn't a tale about the end of the world. This is what it looks like at the end of the world, what it sounds and smells like, and more importantly what it feels like when you are man and boy facing death and the extinction of the species.
Cormac uses words sparingly, and doesn't bother with a lot of punctuation or structure. It's almost modern narrative poetry, as per Bukowski et al. This makes it a more challenging read, but he drags you in, relentlessly. It is very bleak, it is very difficult, but he makes it work. I'm not going to give examples because it's worth finding out for yourself.
I read this almost entirely at night, in a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere in Devon, with everyone else asleep. And every night I went to bed drained by the experience of another chapter or so. If a book can move you to this degree, then what else can it be than a five stars?
176 of 188 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a superb book,
This review is from: The Road (Hardcover)I picked this up after reading a glowing review in the press. I'm completely new to Cormac McCarthy having never read any of his other works. I have to say this is a superb book.
The book is set in a post-apocalyptic future. Though it's never stated what exactly happened, the subtext suggests a nuclear winter following a war. The earth is burnt, all vegetation is dead and it rains and snows ash. The plot follows the journey of a man and his son towards the south in order to find somewhere they can do more than just survive. But as all food has now been plundered - this being several years since the disaster - they are always on the edge of starvation. They must travel without being seen, as most of humanity that is left has long since resorted to cannibalism to survive.
What this is really about though is the extraordinary relationship between man and boy. The lengths that the man will go to protect his son and see him through the other end. It is a novel that for all its darkness is full of love. And wow is this dark. Many authors have written about the end of the world/survival but I don't think I've read anything quite this bleak. The scenery is utterly symapathetic to the couple's plight. It is filled with an overpowering poignancy for things lost - birds, cows, blue seas.
This is a very sad but at the same time uplifting book. The language used is simple and the conversational parts between man and boy are deliberately kept short. A wonderful book that I couldn't put down until I'd finished.
213 of 234 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Thousand Shades of Grey,
This review is from: The Road (Hardcover)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.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lyrical, beautiful, moving,
This review is from: The Road (Paperback)I decided to read this book because the film was just about to come out. I was already familiar with the film's soundtrack (by Nick Cave & Warren Ellis) so in a way my perception of the book was already slightly biased. However, I did not expect a book on a dystopic, apocalyptic future, to be so easy to read, and so beautiful. When I say easy to read, I literally mean that it doesn't feel like an effort to keep turning the pages. There are novels that you struggle with, even when you enjoy them, but this is not one of them.
The story is simple. In a future that doesn't look distant at all, a man and his child are travelling along a road, going towards the sea, salvaging whatever they can find to survive, encountering horror and misery on their way. It's a bleak story, but the bleakness is not gratuitous. There is some hope at the end, some light shining through the ashen sky.
I hadn't read any of Cormac McCarthy's novels prior to "The Road" - I certainly want to read more of his works now. The way he writes, in my opinion, is the nearest thing you can get to poetry, in prose form. It's just simply beautiful.
"The Road" is certainly one of my top 10 favourite novels now, I hope it will become one of your favourites, too.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cormac McCarthy's Post Apocalyptic World,
Amazon Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Road (Paperback)Just when we might be getting complacent in a post cold war world where the two super powers have settled for an uneasy peace, McCarthy reminds us of what life would be like in a post apocalytic world. But who has blasted whom? Who has the will to inflict the devastation described in the novel? Are we faced with the aftermath of a natural incident, and since the two super powers no longer face-off against each other did terroists get lucky in a big way and visited a great devastation up us? McCarthy's novel does not give answers to these quesions nor does it set out to do so. Quite frankly the questions are to some extent irrelevant. Nevertheless, these questions set the backdrop against which one is likely to read The Road. What McCarthy does is to render a loving and compassionate father and son story in the setting of a desolate, post apocalyptic landscape.
In this desolate landscape, as father and son travel the road most of the incidents are seen through the eyes of the man - the two main characters have no names they are simply know as the man and the boy. But this is significant as it seems to me that what McCathy has done here is to suggest that it is possible for this father and son to be any father and son of any nationality. Immediately, we get a glimpse of McCarthy's art in that he has rendered the father and son relationship on a universal level.
McCarthy's diction is smiple and straight forward but the syntax of his sentences can be obtuse at times. This style lends itself to the poetic prose in which the novel is narrated but it is a style that commands a careful read.
Another slight difficulty that slows down one's reading of the this short novel is that it is structured in short impressionistic sections. This gives a sense that one is not reading a coherent story. Do not expect a straight forward story with a linear plot.
McCarthy's prose is sparse but although the sparseness of the prose fits the subject of the novel, I nonetheless found it a bit too dull in places.
Whilst McCarthy's sytle and subject matter fully engaged me on an intellectual level, at times I found it a stuggle to become fully engaged with the two characters, emotionally. Instead, in some of the final passages of the novel, it was the depiction of the landscape, which symbolically stood as a character in its own right, that I found moving.
Furthermore,in terms of engaing with the novel the reader is left to judge the moral conumdrum that is played out between the man and boy. McCarthy's prose is broadly descriptive but the unmarked dialogue between the man and boy suggests that the man with all his worldly knowledge and experience is basically a fallen man. He thinks he is one of the "good guys" on the road but his attitude and behaviour suggest he is not. It is the boy who brings a perspective of naivety and innocence to bear on their experience which in turn encourages the man to consider his choices and decisions, carefully.
This is an extremely bleak novel but what lifts it from it bleakness is hope. We know this because two thirds into the novel in a brief passage the father chides his son that he must not give up he won't let him, and in the final passages of the book the boy is urged to keep going: "you don't know what might be down the road." The Road is a great novel that will be read and be relevant long into the distant future.
41 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Maybe it makes a difference having a young son?,
This review is from: The Road (Paperback)As someone who habitually has five or six books on the go, finding a novel that I have to finish in as close to one sitting as I could probably says something for how this book makes you care for the characters.
It's difficult to go into too much detail without adding spoilers (although that doesn't appear to have stopped some other reviewers of other editions - beware) there certainly are "things that happen" in this story (this is the only book which has actually made me gasp out loud at one point). The narrative seems to have been deliberately framed around a post apocalyptic world which, thinking about it, probably would be characterised by long periods of repetition interspersed with incident, discovery and, at times, fraught action and even peril. You will care when something seemingly minor like accidentally dropping an item happens because the book very quickly draws you in to an empathy for the condition and an appreciation of essentials and consequences. But much more happens than just that...
Some reviewers say there is "little" characterisation - but just like the actual cause of the apocalyptic conditions, a lot of this is left to the reader. It is not difficult to read this book and form a strong view of the two main characters - and to appreciate their concerns of survival, protection and good, and many other character concerns which I will not spoil. Overwhelming, though, is the understanding of the bond between the two, and the love. Like I say, maybe this is easier to picture and empathise if you have a young son - but it should not be a requirement for your average sentient person.
The descriptions of the post apocalyptic world seem almost incidental - as this is not Terminator Salvation, this is the story of a father and son surviving in a horrible world. However, that world is ably realised, the surroundings real enough in the reader's mind to help experience the joys of some discoveries and the horror of others.
Although the sleeve describes this as America, nothing in the book would appear to make that point relevant - it could be anywhere. Pedants might be able to pick holes in the conception of this world (e.g. how can there be blowing ash and wet snow at the same time? Not sure this did happen - but even so, I've never been to a post apocalyptic world, so it seems feasible to me) - but frankly these details are not important - the world itself never becomes unbelievable.
Overall, this is a remarkable work. It is a book which draws you in, almost as a third traveller, eliciting a very real empathetic reaction.
39 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Emotionally shattering,
This review is from: The Road (Paperback)The father-son partnership in this novel will be remembered as one of the greatest relationships in literature for a long time. It's based largely on dependency and trust but most of all love. I can't recall the words "I love you" even being spoken in the book. They don't need to be. It's implicit. The writing (I'm tempted to say prose) is beautifully poetic. It's stark and minimalist, seeming to say so much more than it actually does, largely because your imagination is fully on board from the first few pages. One of the most impressive aspects of the book is how realistic it is. The characters really seem to act and react as you can imagine you would in the same situations. The backstory is hardly explained at all and this is how it should be. Nothing matters but the here and now in the book. It's clear there's no real hope for future happiness and the struggle for day to day survival leaves little time for any nostalgia for bygone days. The climax to the book manages to be completely devastating and yet life-affirming at the same time. You'll feel like immediately hugging a loved one upon closing the book, once you've wiped the tears away, and the lump in your throat will stay with you for days. It's enough to make you see the world differently and there's no higher praise I can give it than that.
39 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An essential read,
This review is from: The Road (Paperback)Cormac McCarthy is one of the USA's biggest and most important literary novelists, laden with awards and praise throughout his lengthy career. It is almost unnecessary to review The Road, his latest novel, as it has already won this year's Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and garnered a major sales-boosting appearance on Oprah Winfrey's US book club, but it was a book of such impressive power I felt compelled to add my thoughts.
Some have already argued that The Road is not really science fiction, since the book features nearly nothing about the holocaust that destroyed civilisation before the book began (there are hints of it being either a nuclear war or an asteroid impact), little about how humanity develops afterwards (aside from the obvious descent into barbarism) and little in the way of an effective plot. The story is instead a series of viginettes that follow the unnamed protagonist ('the man') and his unnamed son ('the boy') as they head south, away from the freezing winter that is consuming the devastated USA, hoping to find a safe haven along the coast. Along the way they occasionally meet other survivors, they loot abandoned shops and homes, and find themselves relying on one another to keep going. However, science fiction is more than just about machines and sociology: it's about people, and how the impact of a future event (such as an atomic holocaust or an meteor strike) effects them and their lives. In this regard, The Road is essential science fiction.
The book is beautifully, starkly written. McCarthy employs a stripped-down prose style with some minor embellishments to keep the story moving. Given that many pages are covered by simple, short sentences as the man and the boy exchange views, the book is actually much shorter than its 300-page count would suggest, and easily readable in a couple of hours. The lack of plot is unnecessary, as this is a stunning atmospheric mood piece with some biting observations on the nature of humanity.
It is difficult to find anything worth criticising about the book. Some may feel there isn't enough plot or backstory or in-depth character history, but that's not the aim of the work. It's about two people and what keeps them going when everything else has been destroyed. In that regard, it works brilliantly. There are some vague similarities to earlier works - this could almost be said to be a road trip (but less revelatory) version of Richard Matheson's I Am Legend - but nothing that is particularly offputting. The book is stunning.
24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You can taste the ash in your mouth, feel the cold in your bones...,
This review is from: The Road (Paperback)A compelling, almost mesmerising, read, this book has superb ambience. A father and son trek, more or less silently, across America, an America transformed into some post-apocalypse wasteland. There is menace all around, at least as the father perceives it - a sense of constant threat from the winter closing in, from their fellow survivors - that keeps the pair taut and constantly on the move. The all-pervasive ash and freezing, dirty fog (perhaps this is a nuclear winter ?) get under your skin as reader within a few pages, and stay there: I felt physically dirty and cold when I'd turned the last page. This is a vivid study of the strength - and perhaps the warpedness, given the plot twist in the final few pages - of familial bonds that endure when all else has failed. Riveting.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chilling and bleak but also a wonderful read!,
Amazon Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Road (Paperback)Although I found 'The Road' absolutely chilling and bleak I couldn't put it down and read it over 2 days. I thought it was a wonderful book, thought provoking and beautifully written - especially the relationship between the father and son.
Now what is the film going to be like?
Most Helpful First | Newest First
The Road by Cormac McCarthy (Paperback - 1 Jun 2007)
Used & New from: £0.01