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  1. #1
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    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.

  2. #2
    Palinodic Moderator KatG's Avatar
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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 by KatG; December 30th, 2006 at 12:15 AM.

  3. #3
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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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. #4
    Gloriam Imperator kged's Avatar
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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 by kged; October 25th, 2006 at 06:42 AM.

  5. #5
    Where have I been? Moderator JRMurdock's Avatar
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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. #6
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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. #7
    Books of Pellinor alison's Avatar
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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. #8
    bmalone.blogspot.com BrianC's Avatar
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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 by BrianC; January 1st, 2007 at 04:36 PM.

  9. #9
    Palinodic Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    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.

  10. #10
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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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.

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