Blood flows vigorously in Cormac McCarthy’s new novel No Country for Old Men (Knopf), in which a grim and emotionless gunman methodically sets out to trace and recover the spoils of a drug deal gone wrong in the badlands just north of the Mexican border. McCarthy’s early novels were marked by a mesmerizing style, a vocabulary and phrasing reminiscent of William Faulkner and the King James Bible. Those early novels Blood Meridian chief among them are dark and violent, and they feature characters who live well beyond the boundaries of normal human society. The writing in No Country for Old Men is not nearly as rich and fabulous as in McCarthy’s early works, and it lacks the wash of language that swept me into strange and disquieting territory. The events here, though, are every bit as disquieting, as illustrated by the antagonist Anton Chigurh, “a true and living prophet of destruction,” who deals out death to almost everyone unlucky enough to cross his path. He does not act simply out of vengeance, although at times it may seem so: it is Chigurh’s complete consistency in his clinical philosophy that makes him inhuman. As he explains to one of his victims before the inevitable end, “I had no say in the matter. Every moment in your life is a turning and every one a choosing. Somewhere you made a choice. All followed to this. The accounting is scrupulous. The shape is drawn. No line can be erased.” The aging Sheriff Bell, in whose territory these incidents take place, tracks Chigurh and those like him who are evidence of an unavoidable and brutal future. Of one boy being sent to the gas chamber for murder, Bell says, “I thought I’d never seen a person like that and it got me to wonderin if maybe he was some new kind.” The “country” of the book’s title is the future, and it is bleak indeed. You close the book with some relief, and set off in search of something by P. G. Wodehouse to cleanse the palate.