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Customer Review

4 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Characters As Barren As the Landscape, May 10, 2007
This review is from: The Road (Paperback)
Just having finished the novel I'm not sure what to make of it yet, I've already been flipping back to some passages just to make sure I haven't missed something.

The prose is without a doubt very good. Cormac's use of language is direct, to the point yet imaginative. Especially the landscape through which the man and the boy travel easily took shape in my mind. Not so with the main characters, aside from the fact that they're skin over bone, Cormac doesn't give us that much. Seeing how he chooses not to name the characters, I think that's his intent. Throughout the novel I got the impression that the author wants to leave space for us to crawl inside the characters skin. Maybe even so much that he wants us to become the characters. His description of them is as barren and empty as the landscape he describes.

To me this approach is also one of the novels weaknesses. Although we travel with the man and the boy through the country for 200 plus pages the only identity they get is the one we instill in them. From an objective point of view the characters fail to develop. We hardly learn anything about their past, their motivations for traveling or going on. We learn little about their hopes for the future, if they even got them. So leaving my own ideas on that out of the equation, the novel fails to gain any real depth.

Another big weakness is the time in which McCarthy choose to write this novel. The post apocalyptic world he describes in this book almost seems like throwback to the Cold War. The landscape and the shape society is in, if you can still call it that, immediately evokes memories of Mad Max and other doom scenarios from that time. Novels of this kind worked very well some twenty years back because the fear of the atomic bomb was so urgent in those days. The threats we are facing today are of a whole different order. As frightening as terrorism may be it could never inflict immediate damage to the Western world in the scope an atomic war could've, and even the so called Axis of Evil does not have that kind of nuclear striking power.

So I guess to me this novel missed the emotional back drop to which it could've worked. If I would've read this twenty years ago I think I could've dealt with the shells which Cormac presents here as characters a lot easier. I think I would've had little trouble breathing life into them with my own fear because that fear itself would still have been real. With that fear long time gone I felt through out the novel that McCarthy should've worked harder to bring back that memory.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 22, 2007 12:16:15 PM PST
L. Barnes says:
This was an especially good review because it shed light on a major complaint many negative reviewers had, namely the flat characters. I think this reviewer's assessment of why McCarthy made them so flat--certainly his characters in the trilogy are lively enough--may be correct. However, this puts more burden on the reader than I am interested in undertaking at the moment. Especially when the plot and setting spell doom.
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