- Matheson, Richard — I Am Legend (161 pages)
- McCarthy, Cormac — No Country for Old Men (307 pages)
Page count: 468.
I didn't know what to expect of No Country for Old Men. All I knew was that (1) there's a movie out based on the book, and (if it's something I'm at all interested in reading) I always try to read the book before I watch the movie, (2) I enjoyed McCarthy's Pulitzer Prize-winner, The Road, and (3) McCarthy's books, aside from The Road, have a reputation for being excessively violent.
I was blown away by No Country for Old Men! (No pun intended.) McCarthy's style is essentially the same as in The Road — Is that good (consistent)? bad (manneristic)? neither? — but the story is completely different. (Well, at least in the sense that The Road is an account of survivors in a bleak, dystopian, post-apocalyptic world, whereas No Country for Old Men captures a sense of helplessness in a mad, dysfunctional, modern world.)
I was afraid that No Country for Old Men would devolve into bloody action-thriller pulp. It doesn't. Yes, it is extremely violent, but the violence serves a purpose. In a stroke of genius (which I at first found baffling until I realized I had been missing the point of the novel), McCarthy practically omits the climax of the story, underscoring a central theme by alluding to the novel's pivotal violent event almost as an afterthought rather than describing it with the same painstaking detail as elsewhere. The overall impression after reading these two novels is that McCarthy is an important writer and I should be on the lookout for more of his stuff.
One thing bothers me ever so slightly about McCarthy's style. In both novels I've read, he seems rather arbitrary in his use of apostrophes and quotation marks. While he seldom (if ever) uses quotation marks, he will go 50-100 pages without apostrophes (neither in contractions nor possessives) and then suddenly allow us a few punctuated pages. If this is supposed to serve some purpose (some way to illustrate character or scene, perhaps?), I don't know what it is. I don't want to believe that it's some sort of editorial oversight or stylistic inconsistency.
I am now very much looking forward to the movie. The previews looked promising, and the story lends itself well to the big screen, so I am hopefully Hollywood will get this adaptation right.