“The Road” – Dystopian Novel, Movie, and Love Story

The Road by Cormac McCarthy (2006) is a powerful and bleak novel of a near term dystopian future. At its heart is a love story: the love of a father for his son and how a son receives this love, returns it, and reminds his father of how to live.

The novel contains some unforgettable imagery and savagery.  I found the novel to be absolutely frightening. I was wary of the movie providing further visuals to fire my imagination.

I highly recommend the novel The Road. It is a painful – but essential – read.

The film The Road (2009) is a fine vision of McCarthy’s novel brought to the screen. The landscape is blasted, and color seems drained from it. The film is in black and white, and there are browns and grays. The sole color sequences are brief, and are in the flashbacks reimagined or dreamed by the father. It is absolutely bleak.

In the novel and the film we don’t know what happened, whether the world as we know it has been blasted with nuclear weapons, biological weapons, or escaped biotoxins (or runaway global warming?).

Plant life has died off, animal life has died off (with one exception we’re presented in the final scene), and humans have descended into savagery, cannibalism, and a never-ending, desperate search for food.

The father and the son are the “good guys” and they “carry the fire” of human civilization in their hearts.

Why does a writer write a novel like The Road? One reason may be love: to remind us of the extraordinary beauty of our planet and to jolt us into action to save all that is dear to us.

I highly recommend The Road – both the book and the movie. Read the book first, and then watch the movie.

If you haven’t seen The Road or The Book of Eli (2009 also), by all means rent both and watch them – in that order. Well, I recommend that order, anyway!

I was prepared to dislike The Book of Eli, even though it features Denzel Washington, one of my favorite actors. I was wrong in what I thought it was about – about a man carrying a Bible to use to “re-boot civilization” after a nuclear war and destruction of most of the human race, nearly all animals, and nearly all plant life. I was prepared to challenge that vision of “re-booting civilization.”

There are some Hollywood elements in The Book of Eli – including gunfights and a Mad Max-like road fight with armored vehicles and assorted weaponry.

However, the movie is ultimately much more intelligent than I expected. Eli (Washington) travels to the West; the sequence on Alcatraz Island of a printing press used to print all manner of books remaining after widespread book burning over the 30-odd years since the nuclear war redeems the rest of the movie for me. If you watch The Book of Eli, be sure to watch for the titles in the bookcase in one of the last scenes.

Prominent actors appear in each film: Viggo Mortensen, Robert Duvall, and Charlize Theron in The Road; Denzel Washington, Jennifer Beals, and Gary Oldman in The Book of Eli.

Intelligent film making. I highly recommend both films.

If you haven’t already, consider joining the following organization and other similar organizations working for peace, development, and clean energy:

The Union of Concerned Scientists [and “regular” citizens!]:


The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists [and “regular” citizens!]


The Bulletin is the home of the iconic “Doomsday Clock.” It is 6 minutes to midnight, according to the clock.

About Andrew Shattuck McBride

I am a writer, editor, writing coach, and consultant. I work in a variety of genres, including poetry, short stories, and creative non-fiction. I also have a couple of novels simmering on back burners. THANK YOU to Nan Macy of Village Books for taking this photo (June 2011).
This entry was posted in Books Authors and Book Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to “The Road” – Dystopian Novel, Movie, and Love Story

  1. Tammy says:

    Hi, Andrew. I’m enjoying your blog and looking forward to reading more. I hope you have a great day!

    • Hi Tammy, thank you for your kind comments.

      I hope that you’ll take a look at my Creating Your Future / Creating Our Future post of a few days ago.

      It seemed to tie in very well with your goal setting.

      Blessings, Andy

  2. As I think about the novel and the movie, and the deteriorating health of the boy’s father, it occurs to me that Basho’s final poem is apropos:

    sick on a journey / over withered fields / dreams wander on

    With gratitude to Robert Epstein. Please visit his blog “Dreams Wander On.” Link follows.

  3. Here is the link to Robert Epstein’s blog on death awareness poetry:


    Please visit Epstein’s blog and explore this poignant and clear-eyed poetry.

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