Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is great, but that doesn’t mean I was wholly blown away by it. Sparse language and stark apocalyptic landscapes aren’t exactly new territory, and that sort of stuff doesn’t exactly get my noodle going. It’s a parlor trick of sorts that Mr. McCarthy has pulled off gracefully. The plot and style are similar to any comic book or pulp novel or B-movie from a bygone era, but the author has imbued this thin palate with a literary cognizance that raises story out of the muck and grime of a post-apocalyptic landscape.
The story follows a man and a boy walking down a road, searching for sustenance and dodging evil-doers, after the end of days. How and why the earth has been scorched into oblivion is never explained because it doesn’t need to be. Mr. McCarthy has kept as much information out of the story as possible, even going so far as to do away with contractions and other formatting niceties, like quotations marks or chapters. The message is clear: show only what is needed, nothing more. I’ll follow suit, and offer you nothing more of the plot, it would ruin the experience of reading it.
According to IMDb, Mr. McCarthy’s books have been adapted into four films so far, including last year’s Best Picture winner No Country For Old Men. The Road represents one of three more films coming out adapted from his work. I doubt the film will be very good, but it’s obvious why it would be made. The novel’s stripped down nature reads just like a screenplay. Action, action, dialogue, scene. This formula lent itself extremely well to No Country, which follows the book almost to the letter.
But this book is very different. There is no chase. There is nothing to strive for. Ultimately, there seems to be no reason to live in this non-world that the author has drawn up for us, which is why this book has mystified readers since its release. Is it a great read? Yes. Is it anything more than that? No. Do I recommend it? Hell yes.