No one can plausibly dispute McCarthy's grasp of the English language. From the opening page, "The Road" glints with impressively understated feats of wordcraft and images of aching beauty: the omnipresent drizzle of ash that's turned the sky the color of gunmetal, the silent forests of blackened trees. McCarthy summons an image of a cataclysmic world so exquisitely realized it borders on the shamanic.
Nevertheless, I'm wary.
There don't seem to be any real ideas at work in "The Road." McCarthy's focus is the relationship between the unnamed father and son, whose trek across a gutted, toxic America forces them to perpetually confront their own mortality. But their strife is condemned to a vacuum; we view them in such extreme close-up that -- aside from a few obligatory shocks -- their devastated surroundings sometimes seem like an afterthought. (Compare McCarthy's approach to the vision of seasoned science fiction writers like Robert Charles Wilson, whose "Blind Lake" -- to use only only example -- utilizes the universe itself to underscore the inner lives of his characters. Forgive my impertinence, but I'll happily choose the latter anytime, Pulitzer Prize be damned.)
Just as ominously, McCarthy's novel is stained -- of only faintly -- with devices that serve little purpose other than to remind the reader that he's in the presence of True Literature. I'm unimpressed, for example, with the author's haughty disdain for punctuation. (In "The Road," abbreviation marks have been obliterated almost as thoroughly as the population.)