The paradox in every part and sentence of the post-apocalyptic narrative—evoking even as it denies—is repeated as if fractally by The Road as a whole … All the elements of a science fiction novel of the post-apocalypse are present or at least hinted at...There are bits of satire of a very dark order in the hints that religious extremism caused the holocaust, and in the relentless way McCarthy deprives the foolish reader of the reassurances … The Road is neither parable nor science fiction, however, and fundamentally it marks not a departure but a return to McCarthy’s most brilliant genre work, combined in a manner we have not seen since Blood Meridian: adventure and Gothic horror.
This is an exquisitely bleak incantation — pure poetic brimstone. Mr. McCarthy has summoned his fiercest visions to invoke the devastation. He gives voice to the unspeakable in a terse cautionary tale that is too potent to be numbing, despite the stupefying ravages it describes. Mr. McCarthy brings an almost biblical fury as he bears witness to sights man was never meant to see … His use of language is as exultant as his imaginings are hellish, a hint that The Road will ultimately be more radiant than it is punishing. Somehow Mr. McCarthy is able to hold firm to his pessimism while allowing the reader to see beyond it. This is art that both frightens and inspires.
The Road is not a science fiction, not an allegory, and not a critique of the way we live now, or of the-way-we-might-live-if-we-keep-on-living-the-way-we-live-now. It poses a simpler question, more taxing for the imagination and far closer to the primary business of fiction-making: what would this world without people look like, feel like? From this, everything else flows … There is nothing easy about the machinery of this book—the mise-en-scene, the often breathtaking writing, the terrifying concentration of the evocation—but there is something perhaps a little showy, a little glib, about the way that questions of belief are raised and dropped … The question of endings in an apocalypse must be philosophical as well as merely emotional, even in a novel.
Cormac McCarthy’s subject in his new novel is as big as it gets: the end of the civilized world, the dying of life on the planet and the spectacle of it all. He has written a visually stunning picture of how it looks at the end to two pilgrims on the road to nowhere … The rhythmic poetry of McCarthy’s formidable talent has made us see the blasted world as clearly as Conrad wanted us to see. But the scarcity of thought in the novel’s mystical infrastructure leaves the boy a designated but unsubstantiated messiah.
The Road is a frightening, profound tale that drags us into places we don't want to go, forces us to think about questions we don't want to ask. Readers who sneer at McCarthy's mythic and biblical grandiosity will cringe at the ambition of The Road. At first I kept trying to scoff at it, too, but I was just whistling past the graveyard. Ultimately, my cynicism was overwhelmed by the visceral power of McCarthy's prose and the simple beauty of this hero's love for his son … The book's climax – an immaculate conception of Pilgrim's Progress and 'Mad Max' – is a startling shift for McCarthy, but a tender answer to a desperate prayer. ·
With only the corpse of a natural world to grapple with, McCarthy's father and son exist in a realm rarely seen in the ur-masculine literary tradition: the domestic. And from this unlikely vantage McCarthy makes a big, shockingly successful grab at the universal … Our literary expectation is that the man's ingenuity will redeem him, but while it's true that he and the boy survive a number of scrapes in The Road, the agony of the novel is that things are getting worse, not better … The existence of a moral structure—the will to do good—is the soaring discovery hidden in McCarthy's scourged planet.
Barely 20 pages in, we get a glimpse of how this book is going to break our hearts … The father and boy are never named. In the hands of most other novelists, this would have the effect of reducing them to metaphors, but McCarthy is so accomplished that the reader senses the mysterious and intuitive changes between father and son that can't be articulated, let alone dramatized. One of the few tokens of hope The Road offers is that although the catastrophe that scorched the earth also burned away people's names, identity is fireproof.
McCarthy takes such B-movie plot devices as an apocalyptic future, cannibalism, and scenes that could have been cut straight from 'Night of the Living Dead' or 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' to craft an existential moral debate about what it means to be alive in a dead world … The love between the father and the son is one of the most profound relationships McCarthy has ever written, and the strength of it helps raise the novel – despite considerable gore – above nihilistic horror … The book's other redeeming feature is the moral debate that McCarthy carries on throughout the novel about whether there is room for goodness in extremis.
The Road is a postatomic apocalypse novel as we've never seen one before, a black book of wondrous paragraphs that reads as though Samuel Beckett had dared himself to outdo Harlan Ellison … Why read this? Why subsume your own optimism in the obsidian bleakness of this great stylist's vision of nearly utter despair?...Because in its lapidary transcription of the deepest despair short of total annihilation we may ever know, this book announces the triumph of language over nothingness.
The Road is a metaphor for what every parent goes through to some degree, fretting over whether children really live for themselves, or merely as extensions of their parents' egos. McCarthy hits that note a little hard—and he completely oversells the notion of sacrifice in his flashback to the mother's florid final speech—but mostly, The Road is tonally spot-on, moving from one terse passage to the next, and continually horrifying readers just when the story seems to be heading to a more hopeful place.
Violence, in McCarthy's postapocalyptic tour de force, has been visited worldwide in the form of a ‘long shear of light and then a series of low concussions’ that leaves cities and forests burned, birds and fish dead and the earth shrouded in gray clouds of ash … McCarthy establishes himself here as the closest thing in American literature to an Old Testament prophet, trolling the blackest registers of human emotion to create a haunting and grim novel about civilization's slow death after the power goes out.
McCarthy pushes his thematic obsessions to their extremes in a parable that reads like 'Night of the Living Dead' as rewritten by Samuel Beckett … The relationship between father and son has a sweetness that represents all that’s good in a universe where conventional notions of good and evil have been extinguished. Amid the bleakness of survival—through which those who wish they’d never been born struggle to persevere—there are glimmers of comedy in an encounter with an old man who plays the philosophical role of the Shakespearean fool.