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“The Road” by Cormac McCarthy.

In addition to playing a lot of computer games1, I also read a book now and then. Recently I finished the sixth book in Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. Despite it only being a mere 400 pages, I used at least half a year to get through it. Sometimes, I’m just a very slow reader. I’m wondering how long the last book in the series will be on my night stand; it weights in at almost 850 pages. By the way, if you like Stephen King or just fantasy fiction in general, then the books about The Dark Tower are certainly something you should read.

After I finished “Song of Susannah”, I moved from fictions to facts for a while. Diversity is good for you. I read through the second edition of “Effective Java” and right now I’m half way through “The Pragmatic Programmer”, a book that should be mandatory reading for everyone involved in software development. The Pragmatic Programmer was written 10 years ago, but most of what the book covers still apply today.

To spice things up a little, Hallvard recommended that I read “The Road”. You’ve probably heard of or even seen the big screen adaption featuring Viggo Mortensen. The story is set in a post-apocalyptic world where we follow two unnamed characters, the Man and the Boy. An unexplained catastrophe has destroyed civilization and killed off almost all life on Earth. The days are gray as the sky is covered with ashes while the nights are pitch black. The two move south on The Road, with a vague hope of finding warmth and other people.

The Man and the Boy, father and son, spend their days walking The Road, engaging in short conversations with each other. They roam through abandoned houses they come across, looking for whatever might help them survive and reach the coast. Every now and then they encounter other people on The Road, but these encounters normally just last for a page or two and then the Man and the Boy move on south.

In the beginning of the book, we get small flashbacks to the days before the unexplained cataclysm and the years following it. One paragraph early on in the book describes the moment when the catastrophe happened, but does not follow up and I find myself wanting to know more and wishing that the book had taken another path at that point. I want to know more about what caused everything, and the rest of the book becomes a hunt for hints about the past. Unfortunately, few are found.

Following the Man and the Boy becomes a bit repetitive after a while. They walk the road, run out of food, look for food, find some food and then repeats the process. All this is of course a very good description of what life at the road would have been; a constant fight for survival where your only focus would be to move on south and to find enough food to be able to do it. There is, however, a good reason why the book is only 300 pages that you will read through in an afternoon: More pages and the whole thing would have become unbelievably boring in the end.

The Road will entertain you for a while, but when you put the book you probably won’t feel you’d missed out on anything if you went for a walk that afternoon instead. The book has received rave reviews across the board, and I have to be honest and say that I am a little disappointed after finishing it. It once more goes to show that you should not read reviews before you read a book, watch a movie or listen to music – make up your own mind about things without first hearing other people’s opinions as they often color your own opinions a lot. At least I think that’s what works for me.

In other words, if the same is the case for you, reading this review was a really bad idea.

Footnotes

  1. I wouldn’t be too surprised if I’m sitting in front of a computer the day I finally buy the farm.

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  1. I have not read The Road (yet), but I’d like to recommend Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood if you, like me, are fascinated by post apocalyptic stories. In Oryx and Crake you are told a great deal about what caused the world to go tits-up as well. Read an excerpt here:

    http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/Books/Oryx%20and%20Crake.htm

    In addition a different view on the story in O&C is described in the “simultanuel”: “The year of the flood”.