Sunday, August 09, 2009
The post-apocalyptic genre seems to have made a comeback in recent years, with loads of video game franchises and “original” productions filling the visual void, and novels like The Road taking up the mantle of literature to finally offer a bit of fresh blood into the post-apocalyptic gene pool. That said, The Road is both an example of good and bad things coming together, with many of its issues being caused by its hype. The Road follows an unnamed man and his unnamed son as they trek across a devastated, hostile landscape in search of a safe haven near the ocean. We’re not told exactly where this safe place is, and we’re led to believe that the man doesn’t really know either. Their travels lead them on an emotional journey through illness, ambushes by less-than-savory characters, and horrid weather. It’s hard to describe the plot of The Road, because this is not a piece driven by plot. Instead, McCarthy’s novel is one that wants us to know the characters, even if we never find out who they really are, where they came from, etc. They are, in a way, anonymous, and, perhaps, for good reason. Some metaphors could certainly be gleaned from McCarthy’s approach to his characters, but ultimately this novel is less about metaphors and more about a father and son defying the odds. Being a character piece, The Road does not spend time explaining how the world ended up the way it did, nor providing many answers to how things fell apart after the end times began. Leaving these questions unanswered might be difficult to understand for most genre fans. Regardless, it’s hard not to enjoy The Road, because despite its failures to show us the world, it managed to capture me on an emotional level, which few books are able to do. Still, The Road is not without faults. As much as I enjoyed The Road, I have to admit that it was not the book I had expected it to be. Critics and Oprah’s followers have proclaimed it one of the best books in recent years, and the novel has, as a result, won several prestigious awards, including the Pulitzer. In all honesty, The Road may be good, but it is not the best of its brand. What it creates in emotional efficacy and hopeless willpower does not draw away from the reality of its roots: it is not, by a long shot, original to the post-apocalyptic genre. This is a story that has been told before, and to greater effect by authors present some decades ago. Hailing The Road as a piece of literary genius misses the mark. The Road is entertainment, and while there is nothing wrong with literature as entertainment, there is something wrong with claiming a book to be something it is not. This would be like calling a Nicolas Spark novel “the next Pride and Prejudice.” Despite this criticism, however, I thought The Road was an excellent novel that captured the emotion it needed to in order to create a dark, hopeless post-apocalyptic world. Sometimes entertaining literature is good enough as that, and since I tend to read literature to be entertained, this one did its job ten-fold. If you’d like to learn more about The Road, check out its RandomHouse page here. You can find out more about Cormac McCarthy at his website. The Road can be found pretty much everywhere. I’d be surprised if your local bookstore didn’t have it seeing how it’s now a major motion picture.