Comments for On the Beach
On the Beach: 03/28/14
On the Beach by Nevil Shute is a cold war — near future speculative fiction about the final days of life on Earth after nuclear war. Written in 1957, the near future is 1963. The setting is primarily Melbourne and rural parts nearby, though there is a brief tour via submarine to the waters in and around Seattle, Washington.
The bombs wiped out life in the Northern Hemisphere and now the the Southern Hemisphere is trying to live as normally as possible as the toxic radiation wends its way southward.
Told through an ensemble cast Ñ as many disaster books are — On the Beach follows an American submarine captain and the Australian family he is rooming with. There is also the debutante neighbor who has taken to living her last days as drunk as possible.
It's a beautifully told story about trying to "keep calm and carry on" to borrow the British phrase. As it becomes all the more apparent that Melbourne won't be any more spared than any other part of the world, each of the main characters must make his or her own peace with the world. Some will choose to end it and some will choose to see things out to the bitter end.
It's not a story for the depressed, I'll tell you. There are some excruciatingly painful pieces to read (or in my case, listen to).