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On the Beach Mass Market Paperback – September 12, 1983
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“The most haunting evocation we have of a world dying of radiation after an atomic war.” —The New York Times
“The most shocking fiction I have read in years. What is shocking about it is both the idea and the sheer imaginative brilliance with which Mr. Shute brings it off.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“A novelist of intelligent and engaging quality, deservedly popular. . . . Nevil Shute was, in brief, the sort of novelist who genuinely touches the imagination and feeling.” —The Times (London)
From the Trade Paperback edition.
From the Inside Flap
st shocking fiction I have read in years. What is shocking about it is both the idea and the sheer imaginative brilliance with which Mr. Shute brings it off."
THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
They are the last generation, the innocent victims of an accidental war, living out their last days, making do with what they have, hoping for a miracle. As the deadly rain moves ever closer, the world as we know it winds toward an inevitable end....
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Amazon should be embarrassed to put out this product without labeling it for what it is.
I almost ordered a different one but now I'm afraid any book I purchase here will be of the same sloppy grade passed if as a classic. I'll be heading to the city soon and will stop at a used book store.
Maybe the new editor grew up near Chernobyl: post-nuclear cognition.
The driving situation, and principal antagonist, in On the Beach is the aftermath of nuclear war. In a brief introduction, Mr. Shute provides the background of a nuclear war having snuffed out all life in the northern hemisphere and the radiation now moving slowly south. His story focuses on a few survivors in Melbourne, Australia who are waiting for the inevitable. How they handle that waiting drives the story.
Mr Shute’s prose is simple, making this book an easy read. In fact, I think it reads like a screenplay. I don’t know if that was Mr. Shute’s intent, but two movies were made from his book. But then, the easy prose does highlight the common lives of the characters as they face an uncommon horror. Taken that way, the writing emphasizes the story’s everyday elements much as the writing in McCarthy’s The Road emphasizes that story’s bleakness. On the Beach is not bleak, though it is sad.
The characters are depicted as was common for popular storytelling of the time—square-jawed, heroic men and brave, supporting women. Mr. Shute goes beyond these stereotypes, though, by placing them in a situation that heroics and personal grit can’t save. That point is brought out in several ways, one of which is the general cluelessness about where the nuclear war came from and why. Even the military men don’t understand it. As the submarine captain says:
‘I’d like to read a history of this last war.’ said the American. ‘I was in it for a short time but I don’t know a thing about it. Has anybody written anything?’
And so the inevitability of death is aggravated by the senselessness of it. It is this theme that makes this story, in my opinion, so very relevant.
A modern version of this novel would be longer. The action does span the globe in that the submarine travels far and wide over the northern hemisphere checking war damage and radiation levels. Mr. Shute abbreviates all that. Today it would probably be expanded into subplots that switched between the submarine and the folks back home in Melbourne. I can even imagine the introduction of a political aspect that could make the story a thriller. All that would be a detriment to the storytelling, however, if it took away from the dynamic of people facing the end of everything.
In these days when political leaders push for war and consider nuclear exchanges “winnable,” On the Beach makes its subtle point: common, everyday people suffer for the insane actions of their shadowy rulers. Such suffering coming from nuclear war would likely be worse than Mr. Shute imagines, but his point is well made that it is the final result of unbridled ambition and greed empowered by doomsday weapons.
Most recent customer reviews
A recent missile alert for Hawaii pushed this book to the top of my re-read pile.Read more
SHAME ON YOU AMAZON FOR MAKING THIS FACT COMPLETELY UNCLEAR!