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The Road/Kingdom Come

August 8, 2007

I read these two dystopian novels in July – I guess it must have been the unseasonable weather which drove me to them. That, or the nightly news reports of flooded streets which disrupted life in the UK and Ireland. anyway, I read them both, recalling that odd period in my late teens when I went through a phase of solo addiction to horror movies – a phase I’ve since grown out of incidentally.

Now I’ve never read any J G Ballard (Kingdom Come), but read a terrific review of the book last year and it remained in my memory. I’ll not be rushing to read more. I couldn’t decide whether this was  clever satire, or  just clunky story telling, and it was too much of a  murder mystery novel to quite capture me. I couldn’t really see the connections between what I know and what may yet be, to sustain the deceit, even though the dangers of consumerism are written all round us. It was also a little preachy. Every few chapters, one or other of the central characters delivered a monologue as if Ballard himself wasn’t confident that the story was holding up.

Cormac McCarthy I have read before, so I was interested when he won the Pulitzer for The Road, a post-apocalyptic father/son road trip through a grey and ashen country, never41limrl2pl_aa240_ named. There were hints of Neville Shute and ‘On the Beach‘, which I read as a teenager on babysitting duties. (I used to babysit for a family, one of the children is now a medical doctor, and they had no TV in the house. Jennifer, the mother, would leave out a selection of books for me each evening, and I would chose and finish one each night).

Once again though I wasn’t convinced. There were times I thought that McCarthy had retained the last remaining thesaurus in the world and was intent on getting full use of it. And while he does menace extraordinarily well, I have never warmed to the characters in the books I have read. Over the years I have read far, far more Pulitzer winners that Booker, or Orange or whatever other local prizes there are and this is the first one that I failed to enjoy.

It wasn’t only the weather that was disappointing in July.

From → Books

  1. Hi Glen, came across your blog through the skainos page.
    Interested in your thoughts on The Road.
    I’m a fan of McCarthy’s books (the border trilogy and No country for old men mainly) and am looking forward to reading it.

    I’ve been getting some light reading under my belt first to prepare me for what will probably be a bit of a bleak ride!!

  2. Hey Jonny…the book didn’t do it for me I’m afraid. His books can be page turners but I’ve never learned to cheer for his characters.

    By the way, I’ve plenty of experience of bleak rides so we should talk!

  3. I finished this a few weeks ago. I’d love to say I really enjoyed but it was a long, joyless struggle.

    Are we going to die daddy

    no heres a house that might have some food in it

    I’m frightened

    don’t be frightened

    And repeat….there were a few genuinely scary passages but they led nowhere.

    A case of less is less.


  4. Agree entirely Jonny…I think I walked every long step with the father and his boy. And you’re right, the ‘scary’ bits just kinda fizzled out.

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