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On the Beach

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  19,631 ratings  ·  1,248 reviews
After a nuclear World War III has destroyed most of the globe, the few remaining survivors in southern Australia await the radioactive cloud that is heading their way and bringing certain death to everyone in its path. Among them is an American submarine captain struggling to resist the knowledge that his wife and children in the United States must be dead. Then a faint Mo ...more
Paperback, 234 pages
Published September 1967 by Scholastic Book Services (first published 1957)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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karen
it's the most pleasant apocalypse ever!there is war! there are bombs! and everyone in the southern hemisphere knows the rest of the world is dead dead dead and they are just waiting for the radiation to drift downwards where they will succumb to vomiting and diarrhea and weakness and eventual death. let me repeat: this is known. and so what do they do to prepare themselves? not a whole lot. they buy some presents for children they know are already dead in other parts of the world (yes, this mean ...more
Jeffrey Keeten
“It's not the end of the world at all," he said. "It's only the end for us. The world will go on just the same, only we shan't be in it. I dare say it will get along all right without us.”

 photo 923a08d5-7ac4-40e1-8533-0a8ec35137b8_zpsa1ff16d3.gif
An Instructional Manual from 1951 on what to do in the event of an A-Bomb attack.

On the Beach was published in 1957, but the novel is set in what was then the near future of 1963. Those years between 1957-1963 proved to be tumultuous years indeed. When I checked this book out of the library, the librarian, the
...more
Michael
"It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine..."

That line from the old REM song pretty much sums up Nevil Shute's "On the Beach." The world has ended and everyone's pretty much OK with it.

Written in the late 50's and set in the near future of the early 60's, "On the Beach" finds World War III has come and gone. The final battle was set off by a misunderstanding with the bigger nuclear powers shooting first and asking questions later. The result is the northern hemisphere is gone, nuk
...more
Carrie
Apr 09, 2008 Carrie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All Mankind
Recommended to Carrie by: My excellent English Tutor
Hmmmmm.....probably one of the most sobering books I have ever read....plausible, poignant, post accidental apocalyptic....it left me mad at Man; mad at His stupidity; mad at His ridiculous striving after world dominance, instead of striving after world harmony.

Nevil Shute's sharply perceptive understanding of Human emotions is pure genius (I would have written 'mastery' there but I understand in some lands that word can be considered offensive....in England, it is not....however, I have decline
...more
Megan
Nevil Shute’s On the Beach, originally published in 1957, is a post-apocalyptic novel which takes place in Melbourne, Australia a year or so after a nuclear World War III. This final world war was so devastating that radioactive clouds are slowly traveling the earth, and killing all people and animals in its wake. Due to some (probably not very) complicated weather and wind pattern science, Australia and it’s surrounding islands are just about the last inhabited places to be affected by the radi ...more
Hanneke
This is definitely one of the silliest books I ever read. That's precisely why I kept reading! Imagine, you are living in a post-apocalyptic world and you are on the south coast of Australia where the last remaining people on earth are living. You are scheduled to die within a couple of months, so then tell me, do you really care if your daffodils are coming up next spring or whether you should be faithfull to your wife, far away in the U.S., who surely is dead as everyone else is over there? We ...more
Jim
Well written & so plausible that it's scary, it's also survived the test of time very well. Written over 50 years ago in 1957 by engineer Nevel Shute Norman, an engineer who owned a firm that made secret stuff for the British government, it amazed me by how the politics & cause of the war are still so possible.

The book follows about 6 people for the last 6 months of their lives. There is no explicit sex or violence. The northern hemisphere has been turned into a radioactive wasteland &
...more
Amy Sturgis
It's appropriate that I should review this novel on the 65th anniversary of the successful test of the first atom bomb in Alamogordo, New Mexico. On the Beach is set in what was the near future to British-Australian author Nevil Shute, writing in 1957: 1963, approximately a year after World War III. The northern hemisphere has been devastated by nuclear war, and those in the southern hemisphere wait for the nuclear fallout to reach them. The story follows the lives of several Australians and one ...more
Lucas
This book was recommended after my disappointment with Cormac McCarthy's "The Road." I cannot say it was an improvement.

The characters in the novel are largely one-dimension with little contrast and their interactions are superficial and or stereotypical. John is the lifelong geek who finally gets a thrill. Moira falls for Dwight based on a few half-drunk interactions; this kind of quick connection is the kind of poorly-earned romance typically found in bad movies. Mary is the stereotypical hous
...more
smetchie
Reminded me of The Sun Also Rises. Sassy dame. Excessive drinking. Fishing.
Except it's way more interesting because everyone is about to die in a few months from radiation poisoning! YEAH!! Plus the sassy dame is funnier, nicer, and drinks even more!! I know, I know. Hemingway and all that. But it's my review and I can compare this book to some classic if I want to. Anyway I don't like Hemingway. Please take that as saying more about me and my literary idiocy than it says about Hemingway and cra
...more
Jenn Myers
There's no way to do any definitive research on how the world would "end" after an all-out nuclear war, but I imagine that On the Beach is pretty close to how it'd go down.

This is a hard book to pin down. It's not flashy or dynamic; we enter the book two years after the last bomb has fallen, with only about six months until the radiation clouds get to where the characters are living. There is a slow build up where we are introduced into the characters lives, and get to know them. They are all a
...more
Anna
This really is not a good book. It's a combination between an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel where everyone just sits around having double brandies all day (but with no sex) and the Plague(but with no gory details.) The premise, an atomic holocaust has obliterated the northern hemisphere and all of Australia awaits a radioactive cloud that is coming to kill everyone on earth in 6 month of time. The whole book is just a count down in which you get to know some of the most boring and two dimensional ch ...more
Lisa
Probably the most heart-wrenching book I've read. It's the story of an all-out nuclear war. And, although Australia has been spared the bombs, the fallout is spreading and heading that way. It was so easy to deeply care about the characters as they live their final days...how they prepare...how they avoid preparation. Heavy, dark and emotional...but one of those books that envelopes you and that you never forget. I read it for the first time almost 20 years ago and it is still one of the best bo ...more
Cateline
On the Beach by Nevil Shute

Everyone on the planet probably knows the story. Nuclear war, lasting only 37 days. This is the aftermath of that short lived mania. Radiation is spreading across the globe with the wind patterns, and the Southern Hemisphere is the last to be affected. There are only two American submarines left, and this novel covers the life of the one (now) based in Australia. The novel beautifully entwines the story of the submariners with the local citizens, all waiting for the R
...more
Mike (the Paladin)
This is a post apocalyptic book from the "other side" of things. Instead of looking at the world with the hope of rebuilding, this one looks at it from the "radiation will wipe us all out anyway so why not quit" side. It's hopeless instead of hopeful in other words. If that's your cup of tea, this is your book.
Granny
Mar 04, 2008 Granny rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who would prefer the world not be doomed
I read this book years ago and it still gives me chills just thinking about it. Seering and unforgettable.
David
(Revisited after a 35-year interval)

One can only imagine the conversation between Cormac McCarthy and Nevil Shute.

Written in 1957, at the height of the Cold War, Shute also imagines a post-apocalyptic world. Nuclear war has annihilated the countries of the northern hemisphere* and the radioactive plume is working its way slowly down south, killing everyone in its path. By the luck of geography, Melbourne will be the last major city to survive.

An American submarine has made it intact to Melbourn
...more
Book Concierge
This post-apocalyptic novel was published in 1957 and set in the future – 1963 (though current readers might consider it “historical”). It takes place primarily in and around Melbourne Australia. World War has decimated the northern hemisphere a year or two previously, and the nuclear debris is slowly spreading on the winds to the southern hemisphere. The population knows that the end is coming; in about nine months they will all get radiation sickness and die. But for now … the sun shines, peop ...more
Shayan
2 stars and that's for the idea of the novel.

although the story, theme, and the feelings Shute TRIES to render (but fails) are good enough (esp the idea of novel is genuine), but I don't understand how come he has become a novelist?! the style, wording, characterization, dialogues, and many more... are awful! you can see the lack of imagination, inability to convey emotion to reader, and a bad and not a bit enjoyable way of creating suspense all over the novel.

I'm not disputing the idea or the t
...more
Lori
Isn't is always a good sign when you finish reading an apocalyptic novel, close the cover, stretch your arms and back, and peek out the window to make sure the world is still there?

On The Beach is a different take on the end of the world. Different - because all the characters know what is going to happen to them, and they have to just sit and wait for it.

Taking place "Down Under", we follow Peter and Mary and Moira and Dwight and John through their regular daily routines as they discuss the upd
...more
Maureen
Jul 19, 2008 Maureen rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Maureen by: a high closet shelf
Shelves: novel, eschatology
When I was young, I had a talent for finding the books that my parents tried to hide and reading them. The first time I read this book, I think I was around nine or ten. It had caused a great sensation when it first came out, leading to the building of more bomb shelters in people's basements and the like. I did not have a basement, so I dug my own bomb shelter in my back yard, fueled by the conviction that the end was near.

I thought that this was a terrifying book as a child, so I went back and
...more
Anita Pomerantz
On the Beach tells the stories of five individuals in the wake of World War III. The world has basically been destroyed by nuclear fallout as a result of the war, but Australia remained unscathed. Initially. But the trade winds are blowing the radiation clouds closer and closer, and Shute's story deals with the human reactions to not only knowing that you are going to die (which we all know), but knowing when and how.
I loved that he didn't turn it into a book about the scramble to try to save on
...more
Larry Bassett
I read this when I was a teenager growing up in the initial nuclear-war-is-possible era. It seemed to me that it could be a true story but probably something we should try to avoid! Wasn't that obvious to everyone?
Manny
Read this book if you're ever tempted to think that global nuclear war wasn't a real threat. People were scared shitless, with good reason.
Michelle
Oct 01, 2008 Michelle rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Michelle by: Aric
Shelves: scifi
I was struck by the down-to-earth human explanations, attitudes, and daily life of this THE WORLD IS ABOUT TO END cautionary tale.

I was surprised not to see the expected evangelist hordes or epic demolition that typically follows in such stories. A week before the last survivors' deaths, the worst complaints are the street vendors "seem to have run down." Everyone just goes about their daily lives because they can't imagine anything else. An entire society is in denial about the world ending. t
...more
Roz Morris
I wish I'd written this. What a simple, powerful idea. The writing style is much less poetic than many of the books I've been moved to review here, but it perfectly suits the idea. Perhaps the characters are all quite similar to each other too; Mr Shute doesn't seem to have much of a range of voices and outlooks. He also tips a hefty info-dump in early on. In spite of all this, I love it. I love his imagination for dreaming it up. I love the originality and plausibility of the post-apocalyptic w ...more
Trevor
Loved this book, from the first to last page. The writing style was straight forward and relatively unemotional, which really suited the subject matter. In fact at the end of the book the lack of emotion in the writing, made the end of the story that much more moving - this possibly sounds strange but is true.

The depiction of how the people and society was impacted by the "last war" were realistic and very believable, especially the slow deterioration in services, resources etc.

You may wonder w
...more
Laura
What I remember most about this book (from high school) is the intense discussion it sparked in my class about what you would do if you KNEW that nuclear fallout would shortly overtake your town and everyone would die, including your family.

Kill them prior to its' appearance so they won't suffer? Kill yourself? What method would you use? What about pets? Morbid, but high school kids are like that. Now that I've read it again I just find it unbelieveably scary and sad-imagine the most helpless fe
...more
Chris
On the Beach reads quickly and the post-apocalyptic story is quietly, humanely told by Shute. His challenge is to keep it interesting for his readers, almost all of whom know how it ends before picking the book up. Yes it's depressing, although there is enough ironic humor to keep the reader from simply shutting the book in desperation. Just as I was about to open the red pillbox myself, up sprang the suicidal all-out car race! I loved it. What a fun way to go if you knew the End was coming.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This is not my favorite post-apocalyptic book.

I think when something bleak and disastrous resonates with me, it is because of the story of rebuilding. Of what comes.. after. And it isn't a spoiler to state that in this novel, there is no after. Everyone is going to die - painfully, predictably, over and out.

I thought I had read this before, but I think I had only seen the movie. That made the book harder to read and perhaps have less of an impact than it might have otherwise. The pages are heav
...more
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Who else thinks that this book didn't age well? 10 145 Sep 04, 2014 02:28AM  
six months to live 16 120 May 22, 2014 11:49AM  
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Nevil Shute Norway was a popular British novelist and a successful aeronautical engineer. He used Nevil Shute as his pen name, and his full name in his engineering career, in order to protect his engineering career from any potential negative publicity in connection with his novels. He lived in Australia for the ten years before his death.
More about Nevil Shute...
A Town Like Alice Trustee from the Toolroom Pied Piper The Far Country Requiem for a Wren

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“It's not the end of the world at all," he said. "It's only the end for us. The world will go on just the same, only we shan't be in it. I dare say it will get along all right without us.” 27 likes
“No, it wasn't an accident, I didn't say that. It was carefully planned, down to the tiniest mechanical and emotional detail. But it was a mistake.” 16 likes
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