Across a blasted, ash-filled land a father and son walk along a road. They follow the red and black lines of a map for a world that no longer exists. Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is a fascinating look at the relationship between a father and son. In order to explore this bond, he places them in a post-apocalyptic world where the only surety is the freezing cold, the blowing ash, and ultimately, death.
As a fan of zombies and post-apocalyptic type stories, movies, and graphic novels (and no, there aren’t any zombies in The Road, but there are…nevermind, I won’t tell you) I guess I had the wrong idea about the novel before I began reading it. Reviews left me expecting a bit more…terror, I suppose. I was never particularly terrified while reading The Road, though I wish I had been. I think it is more a testament to how inundated we are with violence and terror that I wasn’t affected by the violence and terror in the novel.
There wasn’t the in-your-face action-packed fright of the remake of Dawn of the Dead or the first Resident Evil movie (I know, I know, more about zombies, but I think zombie stories are the most apt to describe the feeling The Road evokes). It is the story of human survival after some great catastrophe. That being said, The Road, instead, is much more like Romero’s zombie movies, which are at their heart social commentary, or Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later, which is above all else a striking portrayal of the human condition. And this is, of course, why they are amazing films rather than simply fun zombie flicks.
Ultimately, it’s McCarthy’s treatment and exposure of the human condition which makes The Road such a powerful novel. While reading the novel, much like the experience I had while viewing 28 Days Later, I genuinely felt the horror of post-apocalytpic survival, and more importantly, what mankind is capable of in such a world and as such The Road features horror on a more profound level. If I were to compare it to other novels, rather than films, I’d have to place it on level with Golding’s Lord of the Flies or Conrad’s Heart of Darkness for its contemplation of the darkness and savagery of mankind.
With this novel, McCarthy offers the reader a chance to explore the purest love and the deepest depravity that mankind can offer. I suggest taking a walk along the road through a ravaged world with this father and son.
And don’t just take my word for it. The Road won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and it was an Oprah Book Club selection. It was only when I picked it up that I found out it was an Oprah Book Club selection…which almost made me put it back down. I’m glad I didn’t. Go Oprah. Good choice.