Oct 28, 2009

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Road

I burned through this in a few hours while sitting in the waiting room while my sister was in labor. Maybe not the best choice to read while attending the birth of a baby boy, but it passed the time well enough.

This was one of those rare apocalyptic novels I throw into the dystopian mix to keep things interesting (that was, I say, that was a joke, son). And, boy howdy, McCarthy hit every square on that end-of-the-world lit bingo sheet. Cannibals? Check! Horrific environmental damage? Check! A trek through the rotting remains of our culture? Check! A taste of deus ex machina when things get too bleak? Check!

Which isn't to say that I didn't like it. Those things became tropes because we find them both likely and interesting. This is the first thing I've read by McCarthy, and he has a spare style that works well with this sort of story. It's bloody, but even the blood is shadowed, the reds muted and greyed out with ash.

The movie version comes out this month. I'm wondering if they'll keep the ending as is or go Hollywood.

Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan

Altered Carbon

I really dig the hardboiled sf/mystery style (Lethem also does this really well). After Halting State, all the violence and action that Morgan packs into his work was especially welcome. It's not great literature, but it's a fun ride.

I have this massive fear of being trapped. Trapped underground in a tight cave. Trapped under the ice (not that I have ever seen a really frozen lake or pond - I'm a Florida boy). Trapped in my own body, mind alive but unable to move (China Miéville's books tap into some of that, especially some of the punishments in the Bas-Lag novels). So Morgan's vision of mind being kept "on the stacks", frozen in time or manipulated by anyone who can afford the technology, really gave me the heebie jeebies.

Not to mention all the brutality in Altered Carbon. Now, this isn't packed full of detailed violence like Chung Kuo, by David Wingrove, but he does linger on some pretty fucked up torture a time or two. I don't have a problem with that. It fuels the rage behind the story, and who among us isn't a little fascinated by blood and gore?

All in all, a dark, flowing cyberpunk adventure. I thought I knew the answer to the whodunit early on but turned out to be wrong - a good thing, indeed. I look forward to reading more in the series.