The Road by Cormac McCarthyRead about the other books on the list.
There’s a brief reference to what could be nuclear attack or a comet strike – “a sudden shear of light and then a series of low concussions” – but the slow process of climate change isn’t mentioned in this terrifying 2006 novel about a man and his young son struggling to survive after the fall of civilisation. Make no mistake, though, this is a book about environmental apocalypse: what would happen to humans, and our humanity, if the natural world was no longer a self-replenishing, bountiful support system for the higher apes who scratch at its surface but just another dead rock in space.
In the first years after the catastrophe, the roads were crowded with refugees, foraging remaining food stocks. Survivors descended into “bloodcults”, savagery and cannibalism. Nine years on, if the man and boy meet other humans, they will almost certainly be raped and eaten. The father keeps a pistol by him, to kill his son and then himself when the time comes; the mother committed suicide years before. This is a hard book to read but also, as Andrew O’Hagan put it, “the first great masterpiece of the globally warmed generation”.
McCarthy writes in an unrelenting, declamatory prose somewhere between the Bible and late Beckett, stripped for the most part of the adornment of apostrophes and speech marks and the breathing space provided by commas. He grapples not only with human suffering and savagery on a baroque, almost unimaginable scale; with faith, love and the blunt urge to survive; but with the existential horror of the possible end of the human race. The fragility of human endeavour and the terrifying consequences of our choices are the message to take from this devastating book.
The Road appears on Claire Fuller's top five list of extreme survival stories, Justin Cronin's top ten list of world-ending novels, Rose Tremain's six best books list, Ian McGuire's ten top list of adventure novels, Alastair Bruce's top ten list of books about forgetting, Jeff Somers's lists of five science fiction novels that really should be considered literary classics and eight good, bad, and weird dad/child pairs in science fiction and fantasy, Amelia Gray's ten best dark books list, Weston Williams's top fifteen list of books with memorable dads, ShortList's roundup of the twenty greatest dystopian novels, Mary Miller's top ten list of the best road books, Joel Cunningham's list of eleven "literary" novels that include elements of science fiction, fantasy or horror, Claire Cameron's list of five favorite stories about unlikely survivors, Isabel Allende's six favorite books list, the Telegraph's list of the 15 most depressing books, Joseph D’Lacey's top ten list of horror books, the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five unforgettable fathers from fiction, Ken Jennings's list of eight top books about parents and kids, Anthony Horowitz's top ten list of apocalypse books, Karen Thompson Walker's list of five notable "What If?" books, John Mullan's list of ten of the top long walks in literature, Tony Bradman's top ten list of father and son stories, Ramin Karimloo's six favorite books list, Jon Krakauer's five best list of books about mortality and existential angst, William Skidelsky's list of the top ten most vivid accounts of being marooned in literature, Liz Jensen's top 10 list of environmental disaster stories, the Guardian's list of books to change the climate, David Nicholls' top ten list of literary tear jerkers, and the Times (of London) list of the 100 best books of the decade. In 2009 Sam Anderson of New York magazine claimed "that we'll still be talking about [The Road] in ten years."