On Miéville on McCarthy

At Biblioklept via Times Flow Stemmed


  1. chuckle...

    A review of a review? Then, any comment I make might be considered a review of a review of a review.

    I read _The Road_ and, frankly, I wasn't too impressed. Perhaps it's because I've been reading post-holocaust or apocalyptic works for maybe 60 years now and McCarthy really didn't do anything that was different. He just concentrated on that potential situation when the dead might be considered the lucky--maybe.

    I read to stretch the imagination, and _The Road_ doesn't do that. There are a number of good post-holocaust works out there now that do that.

    I don't intend to see the film, even when it's available for free at the public library. I've read the book and find the prospect of spending over a hour in McCarthy's bleak and uninteresting world to be as Mieville says, (at least I think this is what he said), not fun.

    By the way, I've also read several of Mieville's works, and I find them to be fun.

  2. Dear Fred,

    I must disagree with you on the book itself. While it is in the vein of apocalyptic literature, Mr. McCarthy used it to make a unique statement about the extremes of humanity--love and depravity, in a way I have not seen accomplished elsewhere. I don't think it was particularly inventive in its use of the trappings, but I think it was peculiarly convincing in what seemed a highly unlikely scenario. And unlike most, while I found the book horrifying, I did find it ultimately hopeful, even if that hope were a pale blue flicker. I don't think I could endure the film after the emotional wringer of the book, but I'm not sure a film need be made.

    But I do understand that mine is a minority opinion in too many ways to count. That however is what makes the blogging world so wonderful--so many opinions to vet a work by.



  3. Steven,

    The Road was a selection of a SF book discussion group several months ago. The members were split on it. Some like me felt that it was OK, while others thought it was very good, one going so far as to say it's the best SF novel of all time.

  4. Dear Fred,

    And I think that is where I might part company, because I read it more as extended allegory than as a "science fiction novel." And I suspect that may be where some of the disappointment comes in. As science fiction, it isn't particularly good--or at least not at the top of the game in that subgenre; however, as allegory it is enormously powerful, evocative, perhaps even heart-rending and, to my peculiar way of reading it, uplifting.



  5. Steven,

    Yes, you're right. Here is where we part company. But, that's what makes horse races. [g]

  6. Dear Fred,

    I don't think I meant that you and I part company--more that I disagree that it should be read as SF at all, which puts a very different spin on the entire thing. I was more commenting on those who thought it was the greatest SF novel of all time.

    Thanks though!



  7. Steven,

    I wasn't speaking literally about parting company, merely that we were going down two separate paths regarding _The Road_.

    Yes, use of categories is a constant problem. It's a quick way to saying much about a work in a few words, but unfortunately much is also lost. And, it also sets up expectancies about a work that shouldn't be there.

    As SF, _The Road_ is well-written but really doesn't go beyond other works of the same type--the post-holocaust novel.

    As a work of contemporary fiction though, one might see it otherwise.

    As for being the best SF of all time, well that was sort of an in-joke (sorry). I should have explained that this person makes that statement at least once or twice a year.

  8. Dear Fred,

    Yep! I understood that. And you're right about categories and labels--and if it's bad in the literary world, it becomes a nightmare anywhere else--our labels tend to say more about us than about whom we are labeling.

    And I agree entirely with your comments about the road as SF--I'd rather read _Alas, Babylon_, _Davy_, _On the Beach_, or the masterpiece of the group _A Canticle for Leibowitz_, if I were indulging a taste for apocalyptic fiction. So we're attuned there. I would never argue that _The Road_ is the equal of these in terms of apocalyptic fiction. But as you say, when you look at it on its own terms, it doesn't really obey "genre" rules and becomes something like some of the fiction of Doris Lessing that purports to be SF and really is doing something quite different and odd.



  9. Steven,

    I agree that _A Canticle for Leibowitz_ is one of the masterpieces. It's too bad the sequel wasn't close. Perhaps if he had been in better health....

    My top five in the "post-holocaust category" are

    Miller, _A Canticle..._

    Russell Hoban, _Riddley Walker_

    George Stewart, _Earth Abides_

    Kim Stanley Robinson, _The Wild Shore_

    Bruce Stolbov, _Last Fall_

  10. Steven,

    The "SF novels" by Doris Lessing, unfortunately, has gotten stuck in my "ootd" group(One of these days).

    It's a series, isn't it?


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