Books That Scare Me: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

October 29, 2012 Dystopian 24

Muahahahaha Bookworms! (Did you enjoy my maniacal monster laugh?!)  Today is the official beginning of Hallo-Week, so I’m going to celebrate by discussing some of the books that scare the crap out of me. I have probably mentioned this before, but I’m not a huge fan of ghost stories, demonic possessions, and the usual frightful fare. I’m sort of a chicken and I don’t like having nightmares. Just because I don’t dig the traditional supernatural horror stories, doesn’t mean I haven’t read anything horrifying… Stephen King I may have to take in measured doses, but I have some terrifying tales to share with you! First on the list of books that scare the boogers out of me: The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

The Road is the story of a man and his young son trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. I read dystopias all the time… So why is this one so flim-flamming scary? This book paints the absolute BLEAKEST apocalypse scenario I’ve ever read.

The cover is bleak and terrifying too!

Some unexplained catastrophe has wiped out most of human life on earth. It’s also decimated the plant life, sea life, and animal life. There are a few humans left rattling around the planet, but it’s not pretty. Most of the survivors belong to cannibalistic gangs. Growing food isn’t even an option! Somehow whatever happened (meteor strike maybe?) has put the planet in a hazy fog and the lack of sunlight has killed all the vegetation. It’s horrifying. The survivors who don’t feast on the flesh of their fellow men or barbecue babies scavenge for canned goods and hiding places.

The man and his young boy are never named, but they’re each other’s entire worlds. They carry around a gun containing two bullets, just in case. Better to die swiftly than be captured and harvested for meat. This book follows the man and boy on their journey across the desolate landscape looking for a safe place to call home.

A side effect of the cataclysm is a permanently tainted air supply. The boy and his father constantly wear masks to try and filter the ash, but the pollution has taken its toll on the man. What do you do for a chronic lung ailment when there are no doctors and no medicine? I won’t give away everything, but I will tell you there’s no happily ever after to lull you to sleep at night.

This book disturbed me on many levels. First, it’s always a shock to remember just how quickly “society” could fall by the wayside in the event of a catastrophe. Second, there is just no hope. They can’t escape to a nice little farm somewhere and make a life and refuge for themselves, because nothing will grow. There is no sun. The soil is depleted. Trees are toppling over at the roots. Even if they can survive the marauding packs of cannibals, where are they going to go? What are they going to do? There is absolutely no escape and it scares me silly. Heebie jeebies all over the place.

What’s the most frightening book you’ve ever read? Was it scary in a traditional sense or more of a I’m-about-to-have-a-panic-attack-thinking-about-this way?

24 Responses to “Books That Scare Me: The Road by Cormac McCarthy”

  1. Liesel Hill

    Great post! It actually takes a lot to scare me, and I totally loved The Road! I mean, I totally agree about how disturbing it was–most definitely! But I found it more sad in the end than scary. And very prophetic. I don’t mean that in how society is concerned, but I loved that the man felt compelled to get to the coast and there was a reason for that. There was some hope with the boy at the end and I liked that. It’s one of my favorite dystopian novels, but also one of the most tragic and definitely one of the most disturbing. Great review! 😀

    • Words for Worms

      Oh I loved it too! It’s like I finally understand why people like going through haunted houses. It’s wonderful to realize that it isn’t real! You’re right too, there is a glimmer of hope at the end for the boy. I guess I just would have felt better if something was able to grow LOL. Maybe if they hold out a while longer the ash will clear from the atmosphere and they can get that farm going. Then the cannibals will self destruct and they can start humanity over fresh with the nice people :).

  2. Lyssapants

    My hypothesis was nuclear war. It’s been a while since I read it, but I thought they alluded to that cause in the book….?
    For me, this book was less scary and just more depressing. However, you gotta have quite a spirit to keep going in a world like that and not use them two bullets, amirite? I try to pull out even the smallest bits of hope from things like that…

    • Words for Worms

      They may have alluded to nuclear war. That seems a likely enough scenario, nuclear winter and all that. And seriously, strength of spirit to not use those bullets! That plus the other decent people at the end? Definite bright spots. Way to be glass-half-full!

  3. didibooksenglish

    this book scares the crap out of me too. so much so, that I pass the book shelf and I don’t dare look in its direction. I just can’t seem to pick it up. I know oh so well what it’s about and the makes me slump into a sad depressive state just thinking about. One day!

  4. Rachel

    You know, I can’t remember the last time I was scared by a book. I think that’s just an emotion I don’t feel very often for some reason. Perhaps I’m too jaded. I DO on the other hand, get very upset by certain types of violence…especially violence on women, the elderly, or children. But I’m not sure if that counts as “frightened.”

  5. Jessica

    This is one of my favorite books of all time. But it scared (scares) me to death too! Almost everyone in my extended family has read this book, and we often make preparedness references like “We’d better buy that extra box of matches in case “The Road” happens.” 🙂

    • Words for Worms

      LOL I love that your family is all in on it! In my house it’s more of a “yes, we DO need more butane lighters in case of Zombie Apocalypse,” so I totally get it! 🙂

  6. Megan

    This seems like a very good book to read but, having read the comments, I’m not sure if I should? Is it really that scary? Im in high school by the way if that helps. Thanks 😀

    • Words for Worms

      This book wasn’t scary in a ghosts and zombies jumping out at you kind of way… More like, “I can’t believe how quickly society devolves into chaos and there seems to be no hope for the future!” sort of way. I think high school me could have handled it, but I was a little on the dark and brooding side. I think you should give it a shot. Plus, I think it’s AWESOME you’re reading outside of class assignments. You rock!

      • Megan

        Thank you so much, Im going to give it a shot and hopefully start reading it by this weekend! In class assignments seem to bore me, this book seems prefect to read just for fun!! Also, thank you for the quick reply, I appreciate that!! 😀

  7. cchung90

    I agree this is one of the more depressing books I’ve read–I mean, talk about unrelenting hardship…though I’m sure this reflects the experiences of many groups of people throughout history in specific circumstances.

    But I thought the very end was quite optimistic. And one question that plagues (bad choice of words) me is this: what did the boy learn from the father? Can a pessimist train an optimist? Did the boy perhaps use some savvy tactics (the questions he asked) to test whether the new situation was safe? Don’t want to be too specific to reveal spoilers…

    • Words for Worms

      You know, the ending could be seen as optimistic… I guess my major worry was that even though the little boy had found some safe haven, they still weren’t going to be able to make the planet produce anything. Although, maybe that would just have been a matter of time before it started to recover… Interesting thought!

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