I saw The Road in the bookstore and was fairly excited to read it, but I was also just starting to right a semi-apocalyptic story of my own and was hesitant to purchase it. My favorite genre, if you can name it as such, is anything where the world as we know it ceases to exist. Add on top of that an obviously talented writer (though sad to say my only experience with Cormac McCarthy was the film No Country for Old Men), and I figured it would be a sure hit. Well, I was right to some extent, but I may have placed too much expectation on the story (or the writer).
Story: A man and his son moving through the wasteland that is left after… well, there is only so much that can create an ashen shrouded planet. They travel south hoping to reach a better place and while traveling they confront starvation, bad guys (as the son would call them) and very little else. The illustrated bleakness of the environment and the physical and mental instability of the characters is brilliant. I found his imagery of the night time darkness particularly haunting, and it was contrasted warmly by the bond between father and son. I found myself clearing my throat and even coughing when I was gently reminded of the fact that the air all around was thick with ash and grime. Their wanderings in and out of towns and villages, various roads and bridges, the wreckage and the vastness of distances all conspired together to pull you into this tragic world. The story was well written, and I enjoyed it.
Technical: I loved that the dialog was very sparse and thus perhaps the decision not to use quotations. Again, his mastery of the language is evident, but I found myself wondering what the significance of various dreams the man had and I felt them to be very much out of place almost trying to create imagery where it was not necessary. I think the biggest beef was the conversation that took place between the man and the woman just before she walked off into the darkness. This was where the wife of the man gave up on living as they were. That conversation seemed too contrived, as if McCarthy might have written it prior to the rest of the book and decided to build the story around it. The conversation was brilliant and beautiful and I found it alluring and truly heartbreaking. But it was too intelligent and too planned for that moment in the story even if it was a flash back. A small gripe, but I felt a need to bring it up.
For my first McCarthy read, I feel like it did its job of instigating emotion and enticing me into reading something more from him. I plan to do just that.
The Road, as you may or may not know, is already a motion picture and was released in December of 2009. From the trailer, it looks like it might uphold much of the book, but hard to truly say just from a trailer; I have not seen it yet. I am pleased about the choice of director John Hillcoat who also directed The Proposition, which was a beautiful and brutal film.