The Road, at least out of the SF ghetto

Jonathan commented on my earlier post about Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize winning The Road.  It is indeed a great book.   And this is despite it being an Oprah Winfrey Book Club selection (ha, ha, Franzen, you’re an idiot . . .).

With brute brevity, I’m going to say that The Road chronicles the story of a father and son attempting to survive in a post-apocalyptic America.   Read it.  And don’t lend your copy out to anyone because you’ll never get it back (I’m still waiting for my copy to make it back to me).

This is ostensibly a science fiction book, because it deals with life after some sort of mutually assured destruction scenario taking place.  And if it is, it is by far one of the best sci-fi books out there and one that you can recommend to people who hate sci-fi with confidence.  (I don’t know if I can say the same for Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, with its space operatic the-entire-existence-of-humankind-in-the-balance-due-to-aliens theme merely typifies why it might be the best of the genre, but doesn’t transcend the genre at all.)

First of all, the book is very well written, with the typical sparse prose style that I love so much about McCarthy.  Sci-Fi fiction is filled to the brim with techno-speak and the talk of guys who need to explain every little thing to the readers, maybe in a juvenile attempt to be so nerdily pedantic.

Secondly, the book never explains why and hows of the cities on fire and how the ashen world came to be.  And really, that’s what makes this so great.  Most sci-fi books & movies are obsessed with this perspective of overall historical omniscience, to be on the bridge of the ship during climactic battle, so to speak.   The focus is on two, arguably, inconsequential characters and how important they are to the narrative.

This could be the book that leads sci-fi out of its sci-fi ghetto.  Once a sci-fi writer, you can never get that stain off of you.  But Cormac brought this type of story into the mainstream.  C’mon, Oprah can’t be wrong (more on her and my snobby aversion to her “Oprah” book stickers later), can she?  Margaret Atwood tried with The Blind Assassin and to a certain extent, Oryx and Crake.  Somehow I thought the sci-fi elements were gimmicky and not well used.

Keep in mind I haven’t seriously read heavy sci-fi since junior high.  I think I abandoned it for the above reasons.  If I come across more “literature” (I mean, seriously, what the hell does that mean?) that has credible sci-fi elements, I will get back into it.

2 thoughts on “The Road, at least out of the SF ghetto

Add yours

  1. Yes, as a matter of fact, I am going to write about my recent obsession with them.

    And it’s not free time, it’s time created in the fissures of procrastination.

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