With a title that makes a statement about Texas itself, McCarthy offers up a vision of awful power and waning glory, like a tale told by a hermit emerging from the desert, a biblical Western from a cactus-pricked Ancient Mariner … Through squinted eyes this novel can be seen as a morality tale nestled within a fast-paced and compelling crime saga. The narrative seethes with a rhetorical thrust that likens to Dickens' anger at the poverty of England in Bleak House, only here McCarthy rails against the drug trade that is ruining the Texas-Mexico borderland … Like these doomed cowboys, McCarthy cannot turn away from the horror he sees around him. His voice is hoarse, his visions are often nightmares. In No Country for Old Men he has conjured up a heated story that brands the reader's mind as if seared by a knife heated upon campfire flames.
A darting movie-ready narrative rips along like hell on wheels because it has no desire to break new ground, only to burn rubber on hard-packed old ground, thereby packing it down harder … At times, the whole novel borders on caricature, so unremittingly hard-boiled that it threatens to turn to steam … McCarthy's dialogue is like this: every question sets up a one-two punch, and most of the sparring partners sound alike … Such sinister high hokum might be ridiculous if McCarthy didn't keep it moving faster than the reader can pause to think about it. He's a whiz with the joystick, a master-level gamer who changes screens and situations every few pages.
McCarthy is continent here, which is in keeping with the spirit of the novel. Everything is tight, reduced, simple, and very violent … The book gestures not toward any recognizable reality but merely toward the narrative codes already established by pulp thrillers and action films. The story is itself cinematically familiar … The problem with a novel like No Country for Old Men is that it cannot give violence any depth, context, or even reality. The artificial theatre of the writing makes the violence routine and showy. And McCarthy’s idea—his novelistic picture—of life’s evil is limited, and literal: it is only ever of physical violence … His myth of eternal violence asserts, in effect, that rebellion is pointless because this is how it will always be. Instead of suffering, there is represented violence; instead of struggle, death; instead of lament, blood.
This is a profoundly disturbing and gorgeously rendered novel that will certainly be quibbled with. Not the least of the objections will almost surely be what makes the novel so attractive. No Country for Old Men is the most accessible of all McCarthy's works. This is not necessarily a good thing … The symbolism is achingly awkward … Modern society's abandonment of Christ is frequently mentioned, which, while fitting the near-stereotypical rural nature of these characters, is handled simplistically … That said, this is an entertaining novel from one of our best writers. Often seen as a fabulist and an engineer of dark morality tales, McCarthy is first a storyteller. But No Country for Old Men is a minor addition to his work.
Like the novels in the border trilogy, this story straddles the Texas-Mexico line and its still extraordinary, beautiful desert...But the meditative opening sequence from the point of view of Sheriff Bell hints more at hopelessness than hope … McCarthy in his previous blood-steeped books seemed himself to follow no rule but tell a good story, making beautiful prose however violent and terrifying. With this new book he's broadened his vision.
No Country for Old Men is set in 1980. Instead of teenaged cowboys, the border is now populated by drug dealers and hit men, and it appears that most of the beauty has been stripped from the landscape … The pace is deliberately grim and airless – the book has little of the space and quiet that resonated beneath All the Pretty Horses and The Crossing.
The body count in No Country for Old Men is high, but the renderings of death are muted, truncated, abrupt. We do not find the gore heightened as it is in Blood Meridian … Aside from Sheriff Bell, who is more a conscience than a character, none of these figures can rightfully be called the protagonist, which is probably McCarthy's intention. Without a universal moral code, humanity is reduced to a nebulous relativism that can make a right of any wrong, a wrong of any right and can justify any action with ease … Redemption, honor, dignity, hope: McCarthy portrays these notions as the foolish nostalgia of an old and dying generation. What the future holds for us in his vision is brute violence, the rule of shameless force, a world in which power, not conscience, is the only commodity of value.
Cormac McCarthy's dark and careful novel is sprawled across the southwestern borderlands of Texas, territory nobody much travels and where there's not a lot to write home about anyway … McCarthy is not shy about reaching toward grander themes; there's something apocalyptic about this novel from the outset, and Sheriff Bell's wife – an implausibly noble woman named Loretta – is cheerfully reading the Book of Revelation by novel's end … At its best, No Country for Old Men is a simple, heartsore story: one of an old Army salt with a daughter he misses and a wife he loves, and a mean-eyed killer who moves with the force of RoboCop.
No Country for Old Men is an unholy mess of a novel...a thriller that is barely thrilling …. Chigurh and Moss play cat-and-mouse to the point of redundancy, wounding each other repeatedly and killing many guilty and innocent bystanders in the process. This goes on until the penultimate scene, which oddly enough takes place offstage, and mostly out of sight of the reader, further frustrating the narrative. In the end, the story is swamped with a pervasive and dispiriting sense of nihilism … There are a few moments when the dialogue harks back to the classic McCarthy of yore, but even here there are many more moments of jaw-dropping platitudes.
No Country is a gripping thriller about deals gone wrong, innocent men on the run, and a ruthless killer with a commitment to duty that neatly overlaps with an equally strong commitment to sadism. It's told in McCarthy's unmistakable dry style, even the chapter-ending cliffhangers that demand readers keep the pages turning … It's a strange bait-and-switch of a novel, a first-class airport read that turns into a lyrical, cranky elegy for a vanished America. One aspect should outweigh the other, but McCarthy somehow finds a balance and holds it to the bitter end … McCarthy makes Moss and Chigurh's cat-and-mouse game a gripping struggle between the clever and the pitiless.