- Paperback: 319 pages
- Publisher: Harvest Books; 1 edition (April 24, 1995)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0156002086
- ISBN-13: 978-0156002080
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #735,665 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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This Is the Way the World Ends Paperback – April 24, 1995
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From Library Journal
Near the end of Morrow's painful novel of nuclear holocaust six survivors representing mankind are tried for their complicity in the war. Denouncing them, an alien prosecutor says, "It did not have to be this way. Three virtues only were needed . . . . the greatest of these is moral outrage." That seems to be the key to a curiously contrived saga of nuclear nightmare. As scenes of family life are followed by explicit scenes of nuclear attack, as obscene theories of nuclear tactics are explained, the only possible reaction is moral outrage. Unfortunately, an overabundance of fantastic elementsthe prophecies of Nostradamus, giant prehistoric birds, a flying tailor shop, a mysterious alien race called the unadmittedis never quite joined into a coherent whole. In the ensuing confusion, the novel loses much of its power. Not recommended. Beth Ann Mills, New Rochelle P.L., N.Y.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Begins where Dr Strangelove ends... a gorgeously crafted and insanely funny tale about mortal and ghostly matters... deals seriously and intelligently with large issues in strangely captivating modes. --Philadelphia Inquirer
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Top Customer Reviews
As one can tell from this brief synopsis of the plot, this is not your ordinary work of post-apocalyptic fiction. Or rather, it covers the same ground, but from a completely different angle. The Nostradamus bookends offer an air of inevitability to the narrative, and introduce a major plot device, and Morrow's description of a nuclear war's aftermath is highly engaging. Where this novel really shines, however, is in the trial.
One might expect Morrow to be a staunch proponent of disarmament given the theme of his book, but that assumption is not entirely true. Through the mechanism of the trial, he rails against both the naiveté of the doves, and the hawks' disconnect from reality. As another reviewer so eloquently stated, he demolishes the generally accepted duality of nuclear politics, and demands the reader consider a third path of their own making. That's where George comes in; his real guilt is not in his action, but in his inaction.
While much of "This is the Way the World Ends" is written in the language of 1980's Cold War rhetoric, and the threat of a massive nuclear exchange has, if not passed, certainly lessened immensely, the novel still offers great insight. First of all, Morrow's discussion of deterrence versus disarmament is fascinating; in fact (and I say this with the benefit of a degree in the subject) they would be more than adequate points of departure for any undergraduate course in international security. Particularly fascinating are his statements within ten pages that (paraphrased) 1. You can't have deterrence without strength and 2. Strength leads to escalation leads to instability. Morrow doesn't offer any answers, but he does frame some fascinating questions. Around those questions he has built a novel of intense emotion and beautiful characters; the last time a book's ending moved me so intensely was another classic of the genre, "On the Beach". And while I wouldn't place it in quite the same league as Nevil Shute's masterwork, it is nonetheless a remarkable book that is eminently worth reading.
In his work, Morrow handles the most serious topics (the death of God, the end of the world) with an sense of inventive whimsy that can almost always overcome the inherent absurdity of the subject matter -- but This Is the Way the World Ends is long on absurdity and short on inspiration. This Is the Way the World Ends has many absurd moments, but too few genuine moments to make it all come together the way it did with Towing Jehovah or Blameless in Abaddon.
As an author, James Morrow still stands head and shoulders above the pack in my book, and This Is the Way the World Ends is definitely a volume worth picking up -- but I would do so only after you've devoured his other works.