October 24th, 2006, 08:03 AM
The Road and Other Great Books
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 by Gary Wassner; July 19th, 2008 at 11:23 AM.
October 24th, 2006, 10:07 AM
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 by KatG; December 30th, 2006 at 12:15 AM.
October 24th, 2006, 10:17 AM
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.
October 25th, 2006, 05:37 AM
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 by kged; October 25th, 2006 at 06:42 AM.
October 26th, 2006, 09:47 PM
Where have I been?
If you want a good Hard SF read, check out Macrolife. It's a reprint of an older book, but still an intense concept.
December 27th, 2006, 08:38 PM
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.
December 31st, 2006, 04:22 AM
Books of Pellinor
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!
January 1st, 2007, 04:34 PM
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 by BrianC; January 1st, 2007 at 04:36 PM.
January 4th, 2007, 03:15 PM
Got yourself an exemption from the slavering masses, did you, Brian? Well we here among the huddled peasants say: 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.
January 4th, 2007, 03:19 PM
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.
January 5th, 2007, 05:26 PM
Books of Pellinor
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.
January 8th, 2007, 03:26 AM
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 by juzzza; January 8th, 2007 at 03:29 AM.
January 8th, 2007, 09:33 AM
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.
January 14th, 2007, 08:28 PM
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.
January 15th, 2007, 08:42 AM
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.