In a not so distant future, the world has died. Nothing grows. The supply of tinned or preserved food is almost gone. Most of the people are dead. The ones that have survived are often more dangerous that the hazardous world they live in, and armies of ruthless cannibalistic murders roam the grey and lifeless land.
In this world, one man and his son are walking the road. Scratching for every scrap of food and often near death, they make their way towards the coast, hoping to find the survivors. The man knows they won’t survive much longer in the open, and they live in constant fear of people taking their meagre supplies in a place where a dry blanket could makethe difference between life and death.
The man’s whole reason for being lies in keeping his son, the one speck of light left in his world, alive to see another day.
We never find out the names of the man and his son. However, the fact that the book is confined to just their small sliver of the world and their experiences of the long grey road means that we get to know them intimately. It’s intense and sometimes it’s quite claustrophobic, but it’s also incredibly gripping.
It also means that as readers we’re prejudiced to believe everything they tell us. We experience their fear alongside them, and it’s this that stops us from questioning their perception of the world. Is everything really as horrific and hopeless as it seems? Or are our views skewed by the paranoia of a desperate man?
Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road’ takes dystopian fiction to an entirely different level. The main thing that stood out for me is that while most books in this genre give their protagonists something to work with, The Road seems to offer very little hope for redemption or survival. I can’t help wishing that the author had given us more of a straightforward ending, as this was left just a little too much to personal interpretation for my liking.