BOOK REVIEW: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

written by David Steffen

The Road is a post-apocalyptic survival novel by Cormac McCarthy, published in 2006 by Alfred A. Knopf (which also inspired a 2009 movie adaptation by the same name).

A man and his son travel across the wasteland that had been the United States of America after a major (but largely unexplained in the text) catastrophe that left almost everything dead. They are following a road traveling toward the south where they believe they will find sanctuary. Subsisting on scrounged food supplies from pantries of empty homes, and avoiding other survivors who might wish them harm, they don’t know if they will find enough food to make it to their destination, or how they will survive the coming winter, or whether the sanctuary they are hoping for actually exists.

This novel, as you might expect, is bleak as hell. They and other survivors they come across are all people who’ve managed to survive for years and years after the end of almost all life on the planet, and so have made tough decisions to survive. While the man and his son have stuck to certain moral choices, many of those who still survive have not, and running into others is frequently a dangerous encounter. I found the book very compelling, despite the characters not being named, and the very sparse (and often repetitive) dialog in the book was a strong element of that, there’s not much to talk about, and much of it is the man answering the same questions or try to tell the boy what he needs to hear, and about how their relationship changes over the course of the book. The boy has never known a pre-apocalyptic world, so his father’s stories about the time before are like a fairy tale, compelling but imaginary. A solid post-apocalyptic book telling a deeply compelling and emotional story about trying to survive and trying to help your surviving family however you can, while still trying to make moral choices.

(When I picked the book up, I could have sworn it was a very old book that was published before I was born that everyone talks about, but it turns out I had it mixed up in my mind with Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, a completely unrelated book, apart from them both being about road trips in some sense)

Published by

David Steffen

David Steffen is an editor, publisher, and writer. If you like what he does you can visit the Support page or buy him a coffee! He is probably best known for being co-founder and administrator of The Submission Grinder, a donation-supported tool to help writers track their submissions and find publishers for their work . David is also the editor-in-chief here at Diabolical Plots. He is also the editor and publisher of The Long List Anthology: More Stories From the Hugo Award Nomination List series. David also (sometimes) writes fiction, and you can follow on BlueSky for updates on cross-stitch projects and occasionally other things.

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