Friday, June 26, 2009

Book Review: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Road
Cormac McCarthy
Vintage Books, 2006

Reviewed by Robert A. Waters

This is the first fiction book I’ve read in years. I hate the political correctness of most major modern novels--aren’t writers supposed to challenge the norm? Not only that, the plots of today’s books and movies are so predictable that I can always tell what’s going to happen next. It seems as if most of today’s fiction is cut from the same cookie-cutter mentality that authors like to criticize the middle-class for.

Had I known that The Road was a selection of the Oprah Book Club, or that it had won the Pulitzer Prize, I probably would have never even picked it up. My son, however, suggested I try it and once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down.

Post-apocalypse books and movies are a dime a dozen. Zombies, militarists, and super-heroes are the usual fare in such things. Since I like realistic books, these scenarios turn me off.

What would really happen if most of humanity were destroyed in some world-wide disaster? The Road probably answers that question as well as it can be answered. The plot is simple: after the earth is visited by some unnamed cataclysm, a man and his young son walk south in an attempt to reach the coast. They push a grocery cart loaded with their few possessions in front of them and carry a pistol for protection. Their two purposes for taking to the road are to escape the brutal cold of the mid-west and to try to find other “good guys.” Maybe a group of survivors who still have some spark of humanity left.

Along the way, the father and his son pass through the burned-out landscape of America and meet ragged, dying people, many of whom have turned to cannibalism. Several times, the father uses his gun to ward off aggressors. In one instance, he shoots and kills a cannibal who has attacked his son. (This alone drew me to the book. How many times have we seen the evil gun taken from the good guy and used for awful purposes? The Tom Cruise remake of War of the Worlds rings that bell.)

But what I really liked was the inter-play between the dad and his son. The old man was hard-souled, the boy idealistic. Between them, they complete their journey, each in his own way.

The Road is being made into a movie. My suggestion to the producers is to write the script directly from the book. Don’t try to make it more exciting. Don’t change it from what it is. Don’t try to insert some political or environmental message. Just go with the masterpiece that this writer has produced.

Oh, and one more thing: don’t use voice-overs--nothing will put your audience to sleep quicker.

1 comment:

Monster Paperbag said...

Definitely one of my favorite books. I'm worried though that the movie version might disappoint.