Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Road

Science fiction has been growing on me lately. I had to tutor a student in this course, and I really wasn't into the material in the beginning. However, reading some texts in this genre are starting to turn me around. Science fiction can really make some solid statements about the way things are going in the world and where they might go if we continue to head on certain dangerous paths. Overall, it's pretty cool.

Specifically, I just finished reading Cormac McCarthy's The Road, which was phenomenal. It was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2006. That impressed me right off the bat. There's even a movie out starring Viggo Mortensen. I haven't seen it yet, but I will be interested to.

The Road is basically a post-apocolyptic novel that takes place after some kind of nuclear bombing or war. Basically, the Earth is dessimated and covered in ash. All vegetation and animal life has been destroyed (for the most part). Bands of people live around the country, but most have them have turned evil in order to survive. Many people have turned to cannibalism, taking prisoners hostage and feeding on their flesh (sometimes holding them in basements and removing limbs for meals). Babies are even roasted on spits. It's disgusting.

The book focuses on a man and his son (both unnamed which is significant). The boy and the man/father. They carry around one gun with two bullets which are ready to use on themselves in case they end up in a situation where they will be taken as prisoners. The mother has already killed herself because she didn't want to live in this sick world. The father has lung problems (probably from this disaster) and coughs up blood. They both have to wear masks to prevent further damage.

Both the man and the son are on a mission to travel to the south where it will be warmer for them. They come across some random people who shed light on the aforementioned disaster or who could be the "bad guys." Some try to steal from them, others are killed immediately by the man. All of these episodes make it very hard for the boy to cope or understand life.

The boy was born after this disaster, so he has no concept of what human life was like when the man was alive (like it is now). When the man finds common items like Coca Cola or Tang, it's a really big deal to share them with the son. Flares too. The man tries to not speak about the past as much as possible because he believes that the son will be stronger and happier if he does not know how good it used to be so that he can't acknowledge how terrible it is for him now. It's kind of sad.

The whole book is pretty dreary and depressing, and you wonder where it will lead in the end. Since it's so bleak, can they have anything uplifting in the end? Isn't the point that humans can be savages, especially when there is no law? SPOILER: Even though the ending is quite depressing with the father dying, I think there still is hope with the family that the man encounters. They have a young girl (which suggests possible copulation and reproduction in the future). They seem nice and giving, unlike other guests. It suggests that there might be some sort of positive future for some people in this world. But, again, this is implied.

No more spoiler: The writing style really interested me. It was very short and choppy, very much to the point. It was written with no chapters--basically just short paragraphs of his thoughts along the road. I think the choppiness and the shortness adds to the book. That's really all their life is. Fragments and bits and pieces. Bleakness. To the point. Short.

That's why I wonder how the movie will be. Since the book was so many fragmented thoughts, I wonder how they will convey that with thoughts and images and dialogue. There really wasn't much dialogue, and when there was, it was extraordinarily brief and repetetive. "Are we the good guys?" "Yes." "Will you ever leave me?" "You know I won't." Very brief.

There were very poetic moments too, especially when they come across an old man in the road. He offers very wise advice about the world and why it is the way it is. That is an interesting passage to revisit on a different date.

Overall, it was like nothing I had ever read before. Even though it was pretty dark, it really got your mind thinking about different concepts. It stuck with me too as I read it. It followed me and made me want to read it. It's a great book to pick up, if you're into the whole sci-fi thing anyway.

Hey, and believe it or not, it's in Oprah's book club. Just check out some pictures from the movie. They're tattered in rags and bone thin from starvation. It's just a WILD story.

So, what did you think of The Road?

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