It’s been a while since I actually sat down and read this book. I did so the first (and last) time for a University class, and I wasn’t too disappointed, but it didn’t do much in way of impressing me either.
The novel is an early 2000s imagining of what the end of the world would look like, if the end of the world were full of soot, darkness, and cannibals. The entire narrative shifts around a father and son who, with a shopping trolley full of supplies, are trying to make it to the sea; they seem to be under the impression that getting to the sea would solve all their problems. Or at least, keep them safe.
The father and son serve as an exploration of the relationship and love between family members in times of crisis. Father will do anything to keep his son safe and as innocent as possible; son will do whatever his father asks, because he knows it’s for the best. Through their journey across what used to be America to get to the coast, they find themselves encountering death, relics of a time long gone (such as Coca Cola), death, a human race who has succumbed to the purest sense of ‘survival of the fittest’, and more death.
What I found particularly interesting about the novel isn’t the plot itself, but rather what seems to have happened before the plot. The apocalypse that has hit the world seems to be one caused by humanity’s selfishness, a selfishness that has destroyed the environment and created the desolate wasteland they inhabit now. The entire world is sooty and dark, due to either some for of chemical warfare, or humanity damaging the environment beyond repair. What’s especially interesting about the apocalypse is that it seems to have been around for a much longer time than we initially think. The son was born during the apocalypse, presumably at a time when it hadn’t escalated to the state it reached during the plot. His mother abandoned the the family when he was just a baby, presumably committing suicide because the thought of living in a world so dark and grim drove her mad. The boy has never heard of Coca Cola, despite being no older than years old, and his father talks about the stuff as if it were gold. But it all leads to one simple conclusion: this is something that has been happening for years, possible decades, and what we’re seeing now is the culmination of everything that happened into one, very desolate landscape.
Ultimately, this book served as a very crystal clear reminder of the road we could possibly be heading down. Speculative fiction is a very powerful tool – from Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale to Orwell’s 1984, we’ve seen authors’ ways of imagining our future, and how bad it could possibly get. But every speculative future in fiction comes from a place that we all know we could actually get to some day. There is some truth in the speculation; otherwise, authors wouldn’t be warning us about it like this.
Final rating: 3/5. I think the fact I had to read it for a class put a bit of a damper on me, but it’s still pretty good, if only for the message it gives.
Quotes I Liked: