The Road – Cormac McCarthy (2006)

Pulitzer prizes handed out to genre works are rarer than hen’s teeth, the excellent alternate world The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and Art Spiegelman’s anthropomorphic  holocaust graphic novel Maus being exceptions. While I’d read some rave reviews in horror magazines (primarily in Rue Morgue) I was surprised to learn that Cormac McCarthy’s The Road was a Pulitzer recipient, but that was enough to seal the deal and add it to my read pile.

While not strictly a genre novel, the account of a man and his young son wandering a dystopian ravaged Earth can be considered a science fiction novel despite no mention of what exactly occurred to render our planet one vast desolate wasteland. On the other hand some of the gut wrenching abominable acts found within could easily categorize this as horror. But it is speculative fiction regardless.

While I have never read anything else by McCarthy, I was immediately taken by the writing style which bent a number of grammar rules. But after reading a bit further I understood that the occasional dropped apostrophe was symbolic of the similar yet irreparably changed world. Cormac also extends bleakness of the situation by some of literary choices. The novel is nameless, timeless, even chapterless, continuity breaks only denoted by asterisks. There is sparse use of spoken words and the third person perspective also diminishes the reader’s insight into the character’s frame of mind and thoughts.

There is no grand, overarching plot. The sole goal for the two characters are to reach the coast hoping that there is something better. You would think that this novel would rely on encounters with other characters but there are hardly any and even those few are always brief and often distant. Despite all that the drama is constant and the protagonists are always just one step away from death or some life threatening predicament.The desolation within their souls as evident as the desolation of the road.

I did find that the author took a few liberties with some near incredulous luck being bestowed on the journey, but as addressed within the novel ‘luck’ is relative and survival under such circumstances may not even be considered lucky at all. But overall the novel is fantastically riveting and poignant and while addressing such a bitter story.

I’ll be honest in stating that I didn’t even know a movie was already made in 2009 which evidently slipped my radar. From what I gather from my limited reading of reviews it appears to be a fairly accurate adaptation and I do hope to watch it before too long.

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