A strong storytelling pace sets this novel apart from other works of the author. With little time to take a breath apart from one character’s monologues inserted between chapters sometimes, it doesn’t waste much time: nature and landscape description is sparse and keeps to necessity only.
Its pace is also faster than McCarthy’s previous novels and offers more of a coherent story – and feels less episodic – than earlier novels such as The Crossing and especially Cities of the Plain. It doesn’t lack violence and rawness, but isn’t as dark, bleak and depressing as Blood Meridian. It’s also not as philosophical and is less essay-esque than the mentioned titles at times, although there are still many thought-provoking ideas the narrator and characters touch upon.
What McCarthy is really great at apart from his prose and style – you probably have been familiar with if you read some of his works before – is painting a wicked and daunting villain. I wonder what a meeting between Judge Holden, antagonist in ‘Blood Meridian’ and Anton Chigurh would look like, the latter being the antagonist of this very novel here and who doesn’t “permit to have enemies”, as he claims, and who’s someone you wouldn’t want to cross nor meet and can’t talk your way out with. He doesn’t kill without reason, however, and although his murders might appear random at first he follows distinctive principles he sometimes lays out to his victims before he ultimately ends their life.
What’s more to like is that McCarthy’s characters aren’t idiots and he rarely if at all uses clichés. People are vigilant, cunning, don’t create unnecessary drama and are on point in their dialogues. It’s a bleak novel but not as extreme as ‘Blood Meridian’, which has another, earlier mentioned frightening villain by the name Judge Holden. McCarthy really has a talent and great skill for writing these characters.
‘No Country for Old Men’ is rich in dialogues and therefore with about 300 pages a rather quick read. Thrilling and compelling until the last twenty odd pages where two characters talking reminiscent about the past and future.