The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
How the world ends: “A long shear of light and then a series of long concussions”–some sort of nuclear blast, presumably.
I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about this book. It’s a vivid book, with its gray landscape over which ash falls everywhere, all signs of non-human life gone and humans on the wane, only a few scattered survivors remaining, fewer all the time. I had vivid dreams while reading this. Through the ruined landscape, a man travels with his son, occasionally running into–but mostly trying not to run into–other survivors. There aren’t many–it’s a mostly empty landscape as well as a dead one.
Like Life As We Knew It, The Road works on the premise that if you turn off the sun (blocking it with ash in both cases, though the ash comes from different sources) and stop food from growing, you bring out the worst in people.
Bleak, bleak stuff–I think this book may in fact be darker than M.T. Anderson’s Feed, which is already one of the darkest books I’ve ever read. I think, in the end, Feed actually has more hope than this book.
But the thing about The Road is, in the end? I don’t disagree with the book’s view that human beings are a mix of impulses towards kindness and towards cruelty. But it weighs the balance so strongly toward the cruelty, that in the end I don’t buy it. It was fascinating, really, to see just how strongly I found myself rejecting this book’s world view, and arguing that there’s more of kindness in the world than the story shows us.
Which gave me a bit to think about, and so made the book worth reading. But I don’t think I’ll be in a rush to read it again any time soon.