Micro Review: The Road

I’ve watched a bunch of post-apocalyptic content when I was a kid.

I grew up with post-apocalyptic anime of the desert kind and of the non-desert kind (Italy in the ’80s was a weird place where everything animated was supposed to be for kids).

And post-apocalyptic movies were a staple in ’80s and ’90s: the Mad Max movies sure, but also The Salute of the Jugger, Waterworld, The Postman, 12 Monkeys

I think this was mostly related to the fact that film makers back then had been really, really scared of atomic bombs growing up.

I think my generation was afraid of ecological collapse of some kind, but not as much. Might be the reason why we didn’t get a nuclear war, but we are getting an ecological collapse.

Mild spoilers ahead!

Anyway, The Road by  Cormac McCarthy is the story of a man and his son living in a post-apocalyptic world, trying to go south hoping not to die of cold.

It’s incredibly bleak. If you watched any Mad Max movie, the world is generally fucked up, dried up, and life only survives in a few spots dominated by violence and such. But you see, life goes on, it’s our current world which is fucked. We don’t consider ourselves a post-apocalyptic dinosaur story§.

In this book, life does not go on. Everything is dead. There are no surviving trees, no animals, no fish. Mankind survives on tin cans, and you know those will run out too, and so do they.

This would be sad and depressing on its own, but the hardest thing of the book is that this is the story of a father and a small boy.

The father knows they’re going to die too, and so does the boy. They go through the motions of surviving, but they know (or, you do) that canned food won’t last forever. Maybe they’ll find a cache of some sort of nutrition). But then what happens when that is over?

They have a gun with two bullets, and they have to choose whether to use them to protect themselves or kill themselves when things get too bad. But as a father, what do you do? You can’t kill your kid while there’s hope he won’t die.

And there’s always hope. In Italian we say “la Speranza è l’ultima a morire” (~ “Hope dies last”), and one wonders who died before her. The answer is You. You die before Hope dies.

So the father goes through the motions of living, teaching the kid that they are The Good Guys, and they Carry The Fire. The father does not generally lie to the kid, but you can feel he’d like to.

Well, I‘d like to at least. Lies are bad, but what do you tell a kid when he cries at night? I’ll be there for you, I’ll protect you forever, I won’t let anything bad happen to you. But you don’t have the power to hold that promise.

By chance, I also happened to be reading a different book to my son yesterday, and it’s an amazingly good book§, with many good stories, and one had this bit:

– how much does a teardrop weight?

– it depends: the teardrop of a spoiled kid weighs less than the wind, the teardrop of a hungry kid weighs more than the whole Earth.

And we sometimes forget this, but it is true.

This is a perfect book. It’s short, it’s well written, the story is gripping, the characters are three dimensional and faceted. I believe it’s also part of the free library for Audible subscribers, so if you have a subscription go check it out.

Vote: 10/10, I wish I had read this before having kids.