For some reason, The Road just refuses to go away like it ought to. Now as Sarajean recently mentioned, it is at the #1 spot on Entertainment Weekly's list of "New Classics." (It's an awesome list, by the way, and I'm metaphorically pinning it to my wall to reference for reading material.)
My problem with The Road is purely logistical. In the abstract, if I lift myself above such plodding concerns as "things in books should make sense" and "fictional characters should act like human beings," I can see how this would be an interesting and emotionally affecting book.
The reason I get so infuriated by this topic is that I LOVE Cormac McCarthy - or I USED TO anyway - I counted him as one of my top five authors. But The Road broke my heart. It made me scared to go back and read Blood Meridian or All The Pretty Horses, because what if I saw them afresh, and realized that I did not actually like them?
I couldn't bear it.
Alright, back to The Road. Every level of this book - from the overarching story line to the scene-by-scene level - has something which is desperately wrong about it. First of all, there is no logic to their circumstances. If every single living creature died in the Mystery Holocaust, and the sun hadn't been visible for that long, then there would be no protagonists to carry the story. Total science fail, there. Once the world's store of canned goods ran out, there would be nothing to eat, and everyone would starve to death.
It's not JUST that the setting of the novel is utterly wrong-headed and illogical. It's that McCarthy clearly doesn't care. He blithely trips along like a twelve year old girl writing about unicorns, utterly unconcerned with the lack of sense that's being made on the page. Except that Cormack McCarthy is a grown man, one of America's cherished authors, and HE'S BETTER THAN THAT. Or he should be, anyway.
(I also can't stand how the kid is just so perfect and shining and wonderful. The Road is clearly the work of a new parent, and if there's anything more insufferable than a new parent gushing about their perfect child, I haven't met it.)
Finally, sinking down to the scene-by-scene level. I'm going to pull three things out of a hat, but you could open the book to any page and find something.
1. The protagonists come across a campsite. They wander around for quite some time before stumbling across some human flesh being roasted over a fire.
Have you ever been in the vicinity of meat (presumably non-human) being roasted over a fire? Or even a backyard barbecue? The smell is inescapable, it's the first thing you notice. But we're supposed to believe that these guys wandered around for ages without having noticed it.
2. You live in a world where many (maybe most) people have turned to cannibalism. You come across a house in the woods. In the living room you find a giant pile of discarded clothing. Do you continue to explore? Perhaps. Are you genuinely surprised when cannibals show up? FOR CRYING OUT LOUD I HOPE NOT UNLESS YOU ARE SOME KIND OF IDIOT.
3. The protagonists stumble across a bomb shelter stocked with food supplies. They fix themselves a nice breakfast using EGGS AND BUTTER.
HOW DID THEY STORE EGGS AND BUTTER IN A BOMB SHELTER.
EGGS AND BUTTER ARE PERISHABLE FOOD ITEMS.
IF YOU FIND TWENTY YEAR OLD EGGS AND BUTTER, I DO NOT RECOMMEND THAT YOU EAT THEM.
FROTH FOAM GNASH.