No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Wanting to give up...
Refusing to give up...
Not knowing the meaning of giving up.
When drugs and money come to a small Texas town, sheriff-about-to-retire trope Ed Tom Bell is tasked with solving a deal gone murderously wrong. This is indeed No Country for Old Men.
A psychopath of a hitman, Anton Chigurh (that last name being pronounced cheekily similar to "sugar,") is making Bell's last days as sheriff a living hell. Vietnam vet Llewelyn Moss isn't making things any easier. Moss happened upon the drug deal aftermath, grabbed the loot and dashed. Chigurh's been on his heels ever since. That leaves Bell trailing along behind them, picking up clues and wondering what in the heck they all mean.
I found myself actually pulling for all three men, yes, even the psycho killer and that scared the crap out of me. He was such a good "bad guy" that I didn't want to see him die. There are a multitude of colorful and carefully crafted characters herein, some as thorny as the landscape. How do I know the landscape is thorny? Cormac McCarthy made me feel it.
The book is set in 1980. Thankfully, McCarthy doesn't overplay it with product placement...Oh look at me in my Lee jeans and pornstar mustache drinking from a glass bottle of Coke while sitting on the hood of my '76 Camaro....He uses period-appropriate props only when they are necessary.
The plot is tight when it needs to be and breathes when it can. The action fluctuates from relaxed to tense and back again. Not-completely-necessary-but-still-enjoyable story asides (that you won't find in the movie) often contain pearls of homespun wisdom like "Every step you take is forever. You can't make it go away. None of it."
I saw the movie version of this awhile back and, although the book and movie are very similar, this was still an exciting read for me. McCarthy's austere style may not set well with all readers - he doesn't fuck around with flowery words much - however, the spartan prose marches soldierly ahead, pressing the story on, delivering to the reader a tale victoriously told.
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