Okay, so before you read my review of The Road by Cormac McCarthy, I want you to watch the trailer for the film. It's a strange request, especially coming from someone who is very often not thrilled with film adaptations. There is, however, a point to this. I swear.
Okay, did you watch that trailer? That's a pretty sweet trailer, am I right? There's action and dialogue and hints of relationships between characters. That is not at all what this book is like. Seriously.
Now, I haven't seen the movie. In fact, I didn't even watch the trailer until after I finished reading the book. That trailer might be misleading. The film might just be as boring and pointless as the book itself. Who knows?
Anyway, The Road is the tale of a father and son who are travelling to "the coast" in post-apocalyptic America. The book never really says what caused such widespread death and destruction, but with what I know of supervolcanoes, I'm going to guess it was probably that. (NOTE: if you never want to sleep again do a Google search on supervolcanoes, especially the one under Yellowstone National Park. That is some scary stuff, man.)
For the entire book, they literally just keep travelling from place to place. Occasionally they find food. Once or twice they run into some people who are portrayed as not very nice because they cannibalize people. (I'm sorry, but if the world was pretty much destroyed and that was the only source of protein left, you better bet that I'd be picking meat off of people. I can't think of very many people who wouldn't.) That's it. Nothing else happens. For the entire book.
Thankfully it's a short book; just a little over 200 pages. And because McCarthy seems to have decided that things like quotation marks, apostrophes, and character development are overrated, the book kind of flies by because you're so eager to get to the end to find out if anything exciting happens. Surely a book that plays so dangerously with the modern conventions of writing would have a satisfying ending? Nope. In fact, I'd say it's one of the only books I've ever read which ended in a deus ex machina.
The "relationship" between the father and the son is laughable. They barely talk to each other and when they do it's usually the same conversation:
Boy: I'm scared.
Man: Don't be scared.
Boy: I want to die.
That goes on for the entirety of the book. McCarthy also seems to really dislike using things like "the boy said" or "the man said" so sometimes it was hard to follow who was saying what. Which I guess is kind of okay because they spend most of the book saying nothing at all.
McCarthy is pretty good at describing things. In fact, I probably would have liked this book a lot more if it was just a book describing the world after this giant apocalyptic event. Well, except for the fact that he uses fragments. Every sentence. In this book. Is. A. Fragment. Pretty much.
Cormac, buddy, were you trying to be edgy? Or were you trying to be clever in showing that the world was so desolate by using a sentence structure that was desolate? Because either way, Cormac, you failed. Miserably.
The only reason it took me so long to read this book was because I kept getting bored and putting it down. I'd pick it up later and read huge chunks of text and hope against all hope that something would happen on the next page, but it never did. Maybe, in a way, that is sort of genius because that's pretty much how the boy and his father live their lives, always looking for something over the next ridge, in the next town, and not finding it. The only problem is that the reader should never be looking for the plot over the next ridge. Most readers find that to be kind of obnoxious actually.
But who am I to judge, right? I mean, I've never published a book, let alone one that got made into a movie. Yet, I can't help wondering how they managed to pull a whole film out of this book. It looks like they added a whole bunch of stuff (like, you know, other people, background story, actual dialogue) and that they even expanded the role of one character to fill the void left in the book. I have no interest in seeing the film but I have a feeling that if I ever watched it I'd be sitting there going, "Oh, so that's what this story could have been like if it had actually had a point." I could be wrong, of course. It could be just as bad. But I highly doubt it.
|Oh, see that's what the book was missing: emotion.|
Also, call me heartless, but what kind of father insists on making his small child continuously walk across the country to some ill-defined place that may or may not be better than where they already are? Why not just do the right thing and, you know, put the kid out of his misery? I mean, the world is destroyed. You barely have enough to eat. The child is starving and sick and there's no medicine. There are people out there that want to catch him so that they can eat him. Is it really such a horrible thing to say "screw it, there's no hope" and just smother him with a pillow one night? I mean, this is a child for crying out loud.
Of course, McCarthy does something in the last few pages of the book that is supposed to make you go, "Oh, well, it's a good thing he didn't snuff the kid out" but really all I was left saying was, "Oh, well, here's some thinly-veiled justification for toting a starving kid around because of some false hope". But maybe that's just me.
There really isn't much more to say. I'm giving this book a 2 out of 5 stars. It wasn't the worst book I've ever read, but it definitely doesn't have the same je ne sais quoi as, I don't know, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.