Well, what can you say about a post apocalyptic novel that involves a father and his boy?
Possibly, that it’s the best book – genre, TV tie-in or mainstream – that I’ve read in the last 12 months. Yes, I admit, I love my hype, my hyperbole and my impossible to reach expectations, but seriously, The Road is bloody brilliant.
Like I said, it’s post apocalyptic. I’m not a fan of these sorts of books, except for Z for Zachariah which really got under my skin as a 13 year old and The Stand, which is written by Stephen King and at 1200 pages long is still a damn fine piece of bloated fiction. More often than not your post-apocalyptic fiction is dull and turgid, involving dying communities trying to scrabble together some food and some meaning into their poor lives. I’d rather read about laser guns. And Space ships. And time travel.
But then Justin Ackroyd, local book-pusher and a man with impeccable taste nearly equal to my own, came along and handed me The Road by Cormac McCarthy. And with that unflinching you must read this book expression of his, he asked me to read the book for the May Nova Mob.
And what a fine book The Road turned out to be. I could crap on endlessly about how fantastic it is, but to be honest all I’d be doing is hyping up a book that doesn’t require the spin.
So here are some random thoughts:
- It’s a book about a father and son trying to survive in a world that has been turned to ash;
- There are no place names. In fact there are a bugger all names in the book. We never know who the father and son actually are. But that makes sense, in a world turned into ash, what’s the purpose of having a name?
- McCarthy writes the book in an almost detached style. Everything about the writing, including the dialogue between the father and son is so matter of fact. And yet, somehow, you feel the father’s pain of rearing a son on a dead world, and a son’s pain of knowing that he’ll may never realise his potential;
- Don’t read the book if you’re in a good mood. The book will sort that out quick smart;
- At 241 pages the The Road never outstays its welcome. It’s the perfect length; and
- McCarthy doesn’t bother filling you in on how the world got that way. If you’re looking for revelation or exposition, don’t bother. This is a book about survival and love.
This is the first novel I’ve read by Cormac but it won’t be the last. He is a fine, fine writer and deserves many accolades and awards for The Road. (And I’ve just noticed that it won 2007 Pulitzer Prize for fiction) It’s a magnificent work that deserves a better review than I’ve just given it.
It’s going to take something really special for a book to knock The Road off the perch as the best book of the year.