The Road and Other Great Books

Discussion in 'Fantasy / Horror' started by Gary Wassner, Oct 24, 2006.

  1. Gary Wassner

    Gary Wassner GemQuest

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    I am devastated. Truly. I'm still reeling from the effects of a book I just read and I don't think the images will leave me too quickly. They say SF is dead and that readership is dropping. I suppose if all SF made me feel so scared, so full of dread, then I might not be so anxious to read it regularly, but Cormac McCarthy's newest book, The Road, is inspired in my opinion, despite how awful I feel after finishing it.

    A great book can revive a genre, right? And yet nowhere do I see them advertising this book as SF. I guess that the media wizards felt it best to leave that designation behind and market it as fiction. Published by Alfred A. Knopf, it's referred to simply as a 'novel'. But what a novel. I'm still hiding under my desk.
     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2008
  2. KatG

    KatG Effulgent Staff Member

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    Since he's not regularly a sf writer, they can't. It would be too confusing to McCarthy's fans. I do see it being called sf and futuristic, post-apocalyptic, etc. in reviews.

    I'm sure that the book is excellent, as McCarthy is a brilliant writer. But I have to sigh a little over the effusions of the story by reviewers and media people who have never read postapocalyptic sf at all. McCarthy's story and its themes are sort of old hat for those of us who have, as was Margaret Atwood's "Oryx & Crake." That doesn't mean that both books aren't worth time and praise or don't have their own merits. But it does come across as authors getting kudoes for reinventing the wheel -- in this case, a wheel that's been rolling for a century or more.

    And no, it's not going to help the sf category, except to provide them with a bit more ammo that sf can be used in "literature." I don't think the sf category needs to be "revived" per se -- I think it's very healthy. But the young talents in it need to be better acknowledged and supported in the publishing community and the sff community, and better promoted by their publishers. And they need to have some movie deals. McCarthy has of course already secured his for "The Road." Nothing says good literature like getting a film made of your work. :)

    Edit: Actually, I think I'm wrong here. It's having such an impact and sf has needed some novel to get attention, even if it's not a category sf novel. And this seems to be having a good ripple effect now.
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2006
  3. Gary Wassner

    Gary Wassner GemQuest

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    This book is different. First, it's quite short, both in number of pages and in theme. It's so tight - the prose, the concept, the action. I haven't read anything like it myself. I'm seriously suffering from it still. I almost wish that I hadn't read it.
     
  4. kged

    kged Gloriam Imperator

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    *Thoroughly intrigued*

    edited to add: Pah. It's not published here until 3rd November. Oh well, just after payday...

    I always meant to read more of his stuff, actually - this is a useful reminder to do so.
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2006
  5. JRMurdock

    JRMurdock Where have I been?

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    If you want a good Hard SF read, check out Macrolife. It's a reprint of an older book, but still an intense concept.
     
  6. vortexreader

    vortexreader Registered User

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    Just finished reading The Road last night...and I have to agree that it's a remarkable achievement. No, it's not ground-breaking SF...no, it's not going to reignite the genre...but it is a harrowing story that I already know will stay with me for a long time to come. I honestly can't recall the last time I cared so much for the characters in a novel (and I read a lot of non-genre 'literary' fiction too).

    I think a lot (the majority?) of hardcore genre fans probably won't like it...especially if you like your SF to explain everything. The nature of the global cataclysm in The Road is never explained and I can see how that might bug some people.

    As you would expect from McCarthy the prose is just about always pitch-perfect and so descriptive. It's a slim book that packs an almighty punch.
     
  7. alison

    alison Books of Pellinor

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    It's one of my books of the year. And yes, a remarkable novel. I think there's a lot of Beckett in it, myself. And it's probably a bit sui generis - it seems a bit silly to try to force it into SF genre politics. If I tried to place it, I suppose I would think of people like Ismael Kadare (everything I've read by this man is amazing, and some of it could be called speculative fiction) or Russell Hoban. Above everything else, it's a story about a man and his son. Harrowing, yes, but what haunts you is its beauty.

    And, btw, Happy New Year!
     
  8. BrianC

    BrianC bmalone.blogspot.com

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    My god, how can anyone possibly make a movie of this story? The hope that McCarthy leaves the reader with at the end is so stark, so slender, it can't possibly support the kind of feel-goodism that mainstream movie audiences demand. In my opinion, the virtue of The Road is that the unnamed protagonist continues on, sacrificing everything for the unnamed boy, despite the hopelessness of humanity's situation. Except, there is no eucatastrophe in the book. Indeed, Mccarthy seems quite focused here in the question of whether mankind is worth saving after all. One has to balance the love of the man for his son and his sheer determination to save the boy's life against the base savagery and turpitude of humanity. I'm still trying to figure out where I come down on the question. But in any event, The Road will have to be seriously "hollywood-ized" to make it palatable to the slavering masses.
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2007
  9. KatG

    KatG Effulgent Staff Member

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    Got yourself an exemption from the slavering masses, did you, Brian? Well we here among the huddled peasants say: :p brrrrrr!

    Stop thinking like a dunderhead movie executive, please. That's why they believe we need happy endings in the first place you know -- because you "elevated" folk go around saying, oh those poor dummies can't handle anything else! And then they have focus groups filled with people who would never go to that particular movie in a thousand years except they're getting paid and it's free pizza, and they ask them questions like: so did you think the ending was too sad? And the people go, yeah, yeah, now that you mention it, that ending was too depressing! Why can't they make happy movies, like they did in the past? And what's with all this weird science fiction stuff?

    So then the studio makes the director change the film, and give it the happy ending. Fans of the book are pissed, the film critics are pissed (because they hate happy endings,) and the film tanks. It's because the movie was just too dark that it wasn't a success, say the experts, the magazines and the studio.

    Can you say self-fulfilling prophecy?

    Just kidding, but honestly Brian, if you're going to cast slurs at me and all my kin, try and be a little more gentle about it next time. :)

    McCarthy has the unusual talent of being able to combine the stark, brusque approach favored in the 20th century fiction world with deft lyricism. I totally did not care about one person in "All the Pretty Horses," but I read the whole thing anyway. So I'm sure that with the stark landscape he has to work with in "The Road" and his natural distilliation of machismo into poignancy, he'll do some really nice stuff in this book.
     
  10. Gary Wassner

    Gary Wassner GemQuest

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    Oh, he certainly did some incredible stuff in this book. It's heart wrenching. And you do care about the characters....so much! The fact that there are so few characters makes it a very personal experience as well. I walked with them through the desolation. The boy was my own child.
     
  11. alison

    alison Books of Pellinor

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    Hmm. Try talking to some movie executive producers some time, KatG! They give you goosebumps. Money is the only thing that talks, and it doesn't often have very many brains. Tarkovsky would make a beautiful movie from this story - think about Stalker and Solaris - but sadly he's dead.
     
  12. juzzza

    juzzza Loveable Rogue

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    Fantastic book... I read it in one sitting yesterday.

    Incredible writing, so much menace, part of me didn't want to turn the next page and yet I was compelled to.

    I must confess I was expecting something far worse at the conclusion, I think that is Gary's fault!

    I will be reading more by this author.

    I'd be surprised if anyone did NOT enjoy this one (when I say enjoy, I mean feel satisfied that they have read an excellent book) and we shouldn't underestimate genre fans.
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2007
  13. Gary Wassner

    Gary Wassner GemQuest

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    The ending was almost a non-event for me, the book itself was so powerful. By the time I got to the end, I was exhausted.

    How many other books have you read with that kind of intensity? I can count on one hand the number of novels that I just couldn't put down, and when I did, I couldn't wait to re-open.

    What enormous talent.

    I've been struggling through a number of books recently that have been well received and well spoken about on the boards. I can't get emotionally attached to them, and I pick them up each day without the excitement that I crave when I read a really good book. I wonder sometimes when people speak so enthusiastically about books that I frankly find boring. Is it just taste? Or do they want to like these books for other reasons? Taste is a major factor, but fashion seems to play a big part as well.

    The Road was hands down the best, most powerful book I've read in a long while. All the psychological, philosophical and social issues that other authors, whom I admire and read anxiously, spend pages and pages and books and books to develop and explicate, McCarthy did in so few pages and so simply. Mieville, Bakker, Erikson et al should all read The Road. IMHO, this is a classic. Lit classes should use it as an example of the most powerful and effective use of characterization, plot and setting.
     
  14. Eventine

    Eventine Uh, Staff Member

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    I just finished this up as well. It definitely carries a big emotional punch - there were a few scenes where the boys nervous dance was referrred to, and I was nearly doing it with him. I felt like I was on the road with these guys - the bad things that happened felt really bad, the good things that happened felt really good. I've read some books that evoke emotion throughout the years, but nothing that has so consistently done it throughout a book. I think it was one of the best releases from 2006, if I give it a bit more distance I may say the best.

    This was my first attempt at this author - I've had Blood Meridian on my list to buy for a while thanks to Jeff Vandermeer. I'll have to expedite my attempts to get it now.
     
  15. Gary Wassner

    Gary Wassner GemQuest

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    There's also No Country For Old Men which came out a few years ago. It's intense, though nothing like The Road. In fact, they're making a movie out of it.

    The Road is in a class of its own.
     
  16. urbandrift_gabe

    urbandrift_gabe New Member

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    Cormac McCarthy is a bonafide genius. Blood Meridian may be one of the most effective horror novels I've ever read, and the Border Trilogy has some of the most hands-down beautiful prose I've ever read. But The Road? Definitely in a class of its own. I agree with Alison that it compares to Russell Hoban, or even George Stewart's Earth Abides (which are both excellent novels as well), but is certainly not easily pegged into some comfy category.
     
  17. Gary Wassner

    Gary Wassner GemQuest

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    It's such a human story. It transcends genre because of how poignant and powerful it is emotionally and visually. I don't think of it as anything other than a brilliant book. I don't think of it as SFF, nor do I feel any need to categorize it. That's the sign of a classic, isn't it? Who ever felt it necessary to put Metamorphosis into a genre box?
     
  18. urbandrift_gabe

    urbandrift_gabe New Member

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    I agree that it transcends genre labels. But then, McCarthy has been transcending genre labels since he put pen to paper. It's a universal story. Which is something a lot more genre writers should think about.
     
  19. Gary Wassner

    Gary Wassner GemQuest

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    You don't mean 'plot' when you say 'story', right? It's not the theme, but the metatheme that resounds. Genre is just a garment. Some people get lost under it and some people use it to keep warm. Others wear it because they don't feel like going around naked. But some just put it on one day and put on something different the next, though they're the same person underneath it regardless.

    What makes it universal? (I totally agree that it is)

    The fears it evokes. The gnawing feelings. Questions of meaning and affirmation. The strength of love. The human condition.
     
  20. urbandrift_gabe

    urbandrift_gabe New Member

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    You're right, Gary. I meant "story" in the broadest sense of the word, like the Bible is "The Greatest Story Ever Told". Not plot.

    I totally love this: