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The Road directed by John Hillcoat
The Road directed by John Hillcoat

directed by John Hillcoat

As I mentioned before, I feel so strongly about Cormac McCarthy's story that I feared a movie version could do nothing but bring it down. That would have been an atrocity. It is this fear that kept me out of the theater for so long. To my great relief, though, I am happy to report that this is a movie I gladly recommend to anyone, regardless of their interest in the end of times subject.

Mr. Hillcoat takes just enough liberties with the story to keep it fresh for those who have read the book, but not so much that he subverts its meaning. Most of the scenes are there, but the order is slightly jumbled. There is a lot more dialogue than in the book (Bill, how can you tell without the quotation marks? Shut up, you!). He flirted several times with taking the story in a different direction such that it kept me tense, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was thinking that given the nature of the setting, an approach used in Beowolf or 300 might be best, but while the special effects were spot on, it was the acting of Viggo Mortensen that makes the movie. That man was born to play the role of the father.

Given the number of times I've read the book, I was surprised to gain a new insight into the story: The catastrophe had been going on for nearly a decade! I think actually seeing the boy brought this home for me, from his birth through to the age of what I guess to be nearly ten years. Think about that. Ten years of nothing but constant and ever worsening struggle. I don't think I could have done it. This is why the boy is so important to the story. He gives meaning to survival, the reason for the father to keep fighting. Without the boy, it truly would have been pointless.

This gets to the point of survival. I believe those whose had their children by their side at the outbreak were more likely to survive. True, in the short term, they were disadvantaged: their movement was encumbered; extra food was required, but little work could be expected in return; and, the constant fear of what may happen. But that made you fight hard, gave you a reason for going on. The Road is ultimately an optimistic story because of this. Because as long as the flame survives, there is hope.

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The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The Road by Cormac McCarthy

by Cormac McCarthy

The author uses words like Monet applies brush strokes. Mr. McCarthy takes ordinary scenes, frames them in unusual perspectives and creates a story that is both beautiful and horrific. I admit that I am not objective when it comes to his works as he is my favorite author. A movie based on this book was released, but I'm a little hesitant to watch it for fear of what it may do to this great story. Before I do so, I wish to get my thoughts down.

This IS great literature. It may be hard to grasp at first, if The Road is your first book of his. You'll have to get used to his unusual style, especially the fact that he doesn't use quotation marks. You'll be wondering if a line was spoken out loud or even who said it. I implore you to stick it out, though, as it will be worth your while. The fact that you are forced to think about what's written, rather than mindlessly plowing through the pages, gets you into the story. With your mind thus engaged, you'll gain greater insight.

Beyond being a great TEotWaWKI story, this also appears to be a personal allegory for the author. Mr. McCarthy is an elderly man with a very young son. I could not help but see those two at times in this story. But I do not wish to delve into the literary aspects of the book, this review will focus on the lessons for end of the world survival: food, security and the philosophy of survival.

Despite all of the horrors in the Zombie Wars, the lack of food was never more than a short term problem, except for those in the far north during that first winter. Everyone experienced hunger at one time or another, sometimes quite severe. But the fact that the catastrophe was not an environmental one and the greatly reduced human population (at least the non-undead), meant that as long as you were able to devote time to the effort, you'd be able to find sustenance. I cannot imagine ALWAYS wondering when my next meal would occur. Heck, even the thought that there was a finite supply of food that will run out eventually would drive me insane.

The food situation in The Road directly impacts the state of one's security. EVERYONE realizes there's only so much food. All bets are off. It's not just a matter of protecting your own supply, but you, too, could be considered food. This is different than dealing with zombies. First, you cannot form large groups. Even if you tried, they would tear apart during the first lengthy period without food. Second, you have to be constantly on the move. You will either exhaust the local food supply or others will learn how good you have it. It must be difficult to walk away from food that you cannot easily carry. Finally, what do you do when the food truly does run out?

That final reckoning, I believe, is the major TEotWaWKI point made in this book. What is the point of survival? It becomes extremely difficult to argue with those who want to end it all. Why struggle and suffer when everyone's going to starve to death or meet with a brutally violent end anyways? This was an issue during our catastrophe. I knew a number of people who swallowed a bullet rather than deal with the world as it now is. I took everyone of those as a betrayal. But in The Road? I don't know.

Read this book and think good and hard. What is the point of it all? I did not fight the Zombie War just so I could return to a life where I worried about making my credit card payments.