An assured work of existential horror from debut novelist McCarthy.
The unnamed narrator begins by explaining that there’s a lot he can’t explain. He cannot, for example, share many details about his accident. That information is subject to a non-disclosure agreement, but it’s also—more vitally—unavailable to him: He can’t remember much about the accident or his life before it. He’s become, very nearly, a blank, and the voice McCarthy conjures for this nonentity is an eerily precise, dumbly eloquent complement to his mental and emotional condition. Contemplating the crumbling plaster spilling out of a jagged hole in a wall, he thinks, “It looked kind of disgusting, like something that’s coming out of something.” That imprecision seems sloppy, but it works brilliantly to magnify the narrator’s sense of abjection. The accident, which also wrecked his body, has forced him to relearn rote tasks like walking and eating. He begins to feel disconnected from other people, and he suspects that his life is no longer quite real. He decides to create his own little universe, and the millions of pounds he won in a post-accident settlement make his wishes reality. This project begins fairly innocuously, and although it quickly becomes weirder and more dangerous, McCarthy infuses the story with an uncanny sense of foreboding long before his protagonist decides to recreate a murder scene for his own amusement. It’s tempting to call this a postmodern parable or allegory for a virtual age, but to reduce this novel to the level of the didactic is to overlook its considerable, creepy power.