I got on a plane to Portland on Thursday night, and, as one does, I brought a book along. It had been recommended by a librarian and by a used bookstore’s regional manager, both friends of mine. Pretty rarefied praise, right? I read about three chapters of it around the discomfort of my late arrival to the front seat, you know the one, it has no tray and no space for your stuff. Then, when the plane landed, I set it down to get my backpack out of the overhead luggage, and then walked off the plane, fiddled with the internet for an hour thanks to free wifi, and realized as I was at the end of the line for the next plane that I had never picked it back up. A quick check in my backpack confirmed the sad tale, but by then not only was the first plane almost certainly gone, I was also on the jetway, three people back from the actual plane entrance. So I sat on that flight, sad about the lost book and the inability to read until I finally fell asleep, and then I found a Powell’s at the bookstore in the Portland airport and bought the first book that really caught my eye, the long-recommended The Road. (There was a movie starring Aragorn as the man who is on said road, which I never saw, if that helps to identify which particular road I have in mind.)
In a strictly plot-derived sense, this could be a book of the first years of the apocalypse that resulted a century and change later in my ongoing Deathlands series. Something horrible happened, and the world (presumptively but never explicitly America) is a broken, terrible place where you can only rely on yourself or, in the case of pretty close to 50% of the book’s characters by presence, your father. Food is gone, shelter is gone, animals are gone, even the sun is gone. The prose reminds me a lot of Hemingway, only with a richer vocabulary of colors to paint from; I could almost understand, reading it, why people can appreciate a spare canvas over a rich, vibrant, and above all completely full one. It will stay with me, I know, but I’m not sure I can say that I liked it.
How is this, you may ask, knowing my love of the apocalyptic? It occurs to me that, aside from the dire events themselves, my apocalypse porn addiction shares another consistent thread throughout the collection. All of those books, however high- or low-minded, have a generous amount of hope buried within them. The Road was as bereft of hope as it was of sunlight, and no amount of spare beauty could ever make up the lack. And now that is a thing I know about myself!
 In the character and prose senses, of course, they could not be further apart.