The opening scenes of this novel felt like a smack in the face, as McCarthy goes.
I'm used to slow, methodical openings, like a sunrise, from McCarthy. You get into the story like you get in cold water, hesitantly at first, fully later. Usually, he sets his characters up in ambiguous ways, and things happen to them after a few beautiful chapters. Here, you're running the moment you open the book.
It was amazing! Awesome! Thrilling, adventure, morality set against the scales of life and death, it was the perfect way to start the reading year off. And if that's any indication of what's in store, I can't wait.
Earlier, I called The Road McCarthy's most accessibe, but I said that ignorant of this earlier book of his. No Country For Old Men is just as accessible, if not more, than McCarthy's latest; it's definitely his most thrilling.
Llewellyn Moss, on a hunting expedition, stumbles upon a scene in the desert he's not prepared for: the aftermath of a drug trade gone bad. Dead bodies scatter the hot desert ridge where Moss finds millions of dollars in cash along with some heroine in the back of one of the trucks. He takes the cash and scoots off, but later doubts lead him back to the scene, where he is spotted by a man that pursues him to no end, stopping at nothing to get the money back.
Moss is pursued by the drug cartel, who are scary but not in comparison with his other pursuer, Chigurh. Chigurh is evil come real, he is fate and God aligned in man, all the malice and terror you would expect from such a person.
And throughout all this mess is the story of the sheriff of the town, who is riddled by his own demons while he struggles to bring Moss in and ultimately save him from Chigurh, who scares everyone.
McCarthy's ethereal writing lends a terrible weight to the themes of this novel, and his answers are just as disturbing as they ever are, so if you're a McCarthy fan, you're in for quite a treat. I love how he plays the story out and subverts the plot to shed light on the real issues, the real threat of mankind, rather than distract us with just another great story. What McCarthy does well here is what he's best at: evoking a feeling that has a purpose.
Today, there really is no country for old men, things really aren't as easy or as innocent as they once were. So much is working against us. As ever, McCarthy lets us know that the real hope is in the hopeless, our real motivations are never as pure as we want them to be, and, man, this world is messed up. Here, I have to agree. Read this book.