Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Prepare: Why People Hate "The Road"

Up front, "The Road" is a best seller fiction title by Cormac McCarthy which describes the harrowing journey of an unnamed man and his son across a post-apocalyptic America. The world is cold, dying (even plant life), and there is very little left to eat other than salvage.  The beginning and end of "The Road" are vague, depressing and cruel and leave most readers feeling depressed and despondent after reading.

"The Road" was eventually adapted for the big screen and was released in 2009 in limited release. It is available now on NetFlix, pay per view or the video rental box.

Reading any of the numerous preparedness and survival themed boards, the subject of the movie or book comes up frequently. As it is a survival themed, futuristic story and very well publicized, most of us have been exposed to "The Road" in some way.

The verdict from many SHTF fiction fans is unanimous: They hate "The Road". Not just your garden variety, "thought is was boring or preposterous", but "want to burn the book and have the movie banned" type of hate.

I thnk the reasons for this are many.

Preparedness and survival mindsets are all about avoidance. Avoiding starvation, violence, deprivation, slavery, or homelessness. "The Road" tosses that out the window as the protagonsists spend the entire story in constant confrontation with hunger and violence.

Your run of the mill survivor likes to think that he has most scenarios covered and in a real "SHTF situation", would be able to assemble or join a group of like minded survivors. T"The Road" has the heroes alone and out of options most of the book.

Some survivalist minded folk gravitate towards firearms aspects of stories and enjoy reading about the capabilities and capacities of the story subjects armory and choice of weapons. "The Road" has one gun with two rounds of ammunition. And there are no piles of weapons recovered after battles or located in forgotten National Guard armories. Gun wise, "The Road" is boring.

"The Road" has a hero with no list of preps, no long winded explainations on how he assembled, purchased or obtained numerous doohickeys and wonder devices. There are no laborious descriptions and advice for highlighting prep readers.

The book is a let down for these people as it is missing all the standard elements they deem necessary in a good survival themed story. 

It seems many survivalist fiction fans need stories with some or most of the following elements:

- The hero has his bases covered; a strategically located retreat, stored food, several different firearms, a vehicle, fuel, heat and energy sources.

- The hero has compatriots. A supportive and like minded spouse, friends with the same mindset, the companionship and respect of someone with authority such as a local sheriff or military commander. Everyone seems to enjoy working together to raise food, build fortifications and repel bad guys. And there's a back slap or big grin around every corner in the post-apocalyptic world as every conflict is resolved in one chapter or less.

- The hero has a somewhat functioning world: Food can be grown, supplies can still be located or salvaged, there is a tidy method to deal with enemies, characters can travel from one location to another.

- Antagonists are predictable; they have names like Scrag or Greasey, have clear cut criminal motives, will attack at convenient times and are eventually defeated.

- Death is acceptable and surmountable; deaths of enemies or compatriots is quickly dealt with and dismissed, there is no mental anguish or grief, civilized people quickly accept the current scenario and deal death without remorse or question.

"The Road" did not adhere to what fans expected and wanted. Moreover, "The Road" did not fulfill the desire to see success in a post-apocalyptic world and so, it could not be considered a worthy title or film.

As for myself, I take a different tact. I enjoyed the book as a work of literature and fiction, (I thought the movie was so-so). From a preparedness scenario, it opened my eyes to a completely worse case world that some sort of mental preparedness is needed.

As they say, your mileage may vary on "The Road".


LyndaKay said...

So is there such a book: a "good survival themed story"? Would love to read one.

JD said...


Sure. Check out http://deepwinterstory.blogspot.com. The author TSherry has published three books from the same story arc which are all good and very realistic without going overboard.

Also, Lights Out. It used to be free online, but since it was published, is available for sale.

Also, check out an earlier post I made about finding good stories online - http://survivalism.blogspot.com/2009/03/shtf-shtf-fiction-online.html

Thanks for reading and taking the time to post.

Tulkas said...

The reason people hate the road is that they have no imagination. There a many scenarios that would leave most preppers in the exact situation as " the man " . Theft , fire , or any number of events and you are with your EDC and that is it ! " The Road " is also great for depicting the ever present despair that will haunt a true TETOWAWKI event. Unless you have a lifetime supply of Prozac ( which some people take after reading the book :) Survivors need to look to this book as a benchmark and not expect a hidden cache around every corner .

Julio Cheda said...

Such a interesting observation. When i saw the movie i becamed very depressed with the idea that the situations presented could be the most probably scenario after SHTF.

But as we analise on the beginning of the history, we see that he was on his house with some food, protection and comfort. The great problem emerges when his wife had a mental breakdown and commit suicide.
Thats the point that you have writed in the end of the post, psychological preparedness. The Brazilian Military Survival Guide have a great emphasis on the desire to live and the importance of have a equilibrated mind to deal with such extraordinary situations, after all, whats the point of having 20 guns and thousands of ammo if you are in panic and without control of your own body and emotions?

JD said...

I think the point of The Road was not as a survival manual (like Patriots for instance). It is a story of love and redemption, sacrifice and faith in a time and place of absolute horror.

The man does prepare somewhat in the book (he fills the tub with water) so he has a survival mindset, but for the most part, he lives as a scavenger doing whatever to provide for his child.

There is no way to completely prepare for the events of The Road. I wrote a post in here not too long ago which basically said it would require an off the beaten path, we hidden shelter, multiple year (50-100 year) supply of basic foodstuffs like grain, rice, beans, etc, some small animal production, renewable energy source and a group of no fewer than 50 people to make it viable.

Basically, impossible unless one is the government or Bill Gates.

Wandering Shaun said...

We also have to keep in mind that the events in the book happen about 10-12 years after the apocalyptic event. The reason the man has nothing is because it has been used. There were a few instances in flashback that made it apparent that the man did prepare somethings, but for large part was caught unaware. I liked the book because of the hopelessness of the main characters. It was different than the stories of the preppers who just sit back and let things go on around them.

I'm reading One Second After (after reading the review on Survival Blog) and am really enjoying it. It's more on the lines of a "good survival themed story". I recommend it.

azurevirus said...

I liked the book and the movie as it aptly shows what life could be like for the unprepared..this book/movie hammers home the idea to be prepared..altho as stated the cause of their plight is unknown..Im wagering something on a global nuclear scenario..which is probably the hardest most exspensive scenario to prep for..but it was good entrtainment, I was pleasantly suprised to see Duvall in the movie


we hated the road because it points toward hopelessness. We al want there to be hope in bad times; it is bad enough having to live through it.

lizzie said...

If you were prepared you would nt live long. You would have to defend what you had with your life.
I get the feeling a comet hit the earth and they are in a nuclear winter. I think it is an extinction senario but the theme is love and the human ability to transcend horror (think the death camps in Germany)
I was encouraged that the boy did not have to die alone although I dont think he survived.
We are not more than two or three harvests away for total famine and this was at least ten years out.

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