The eschatological streak continues with The Road. Cormac McCarthy has struck desolate, bleak gold with this book. The world is a pitted slagheap, and roving bands of people march across its cratered surface. The protagonist and his son march through this moonscape, trying to find subsistence and the strength to survive bands of cannibalistic marauders. The son is very young and often wonders about the world he never saw, a world the father can only adumbrate with unease and guilt. They are weakly armed but the father succeeds in keeping the son alive through several harrowing episodes. No real details are provided about the catastrophe that turned the seas grey with ash, giving your imagination full rein to invent the worst possible scenario.
McCarthy’s style is very postmodern, he eschews standard punctuation such as apostrophes and double quotes. All dialogue is unmarked in the prose. Perhaps the gravity of the situation forced the characters in the book to forget the basic rules of syntax and diction. The effect is not to irritate, as one might imagine, instead escaping almost unnoticed through the book. The ending is perhaps a better outcome than we can hope for, with the last thing freed from Pandora’s box briefly appearing in the climax. It is a strangely compelling book, hurtling towards the end despite the fact that there can be no fairytale ending, no Deus Ex Machina to rescue mankind from its sepulchral fate.