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On the Beach

3.92  ·  Rating Details  ·  24,953 Ratings  ·  1,593 Reviews
Following a nuclear war in the Northern Hemisphere, the inhabitants of a small Australian community await the inevitable after-effects of the bombs to reach them.
Paperback, 280 pages
Published September 12th 1983 by Ballantine Books (first published 1957)
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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.”

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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
May 17, 2010 karen rated it liked it
Shelves: the-end
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
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
"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
Apr 09, 2008 Carrie rated it it was amazing  ·  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 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 England, it is not....however, I have decline
Sara Steger
Mar 07, 2016 Sara Steger rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle-purchase
This is a stirring, eerily believable short work by Nevil Shute. It is post WWIII and everyone in the world is dead except those who are in Australia and New Zealand. But, they are not safe, they are just waiting for the radiation to reach them. There is an ample mix of denial and acceptance in each of the characters, some of whom prepare for next year's garden even though they have been told the end is expected in a matter of months.

The main characters are a US submarine commander, Dwight Tower
Nov 03, 2014 Hanneke rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-read
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
Dec 23, 2008 Lucas rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 &am
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
Jul 02, 2008 Anna rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 25, 2007 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 they 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
Aug 23, 2015 Rosie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
I read this book ages ago and it is one of my favourites. Clearly I have a bit of a morbid sense of enjoyment, given this is about the end of the world. The war is over and a radioactive cloud is slowly killing everyone in the world. An American submarine captain, Dwight Towers and his crew arrive on the shores of Australia: the last inhabitants of the world. Dwight Towers and his crew, along with the Australian Lieutenant-Commander Peter Holmes set out on a submarine mission to America to ident ...more
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
Mar 21, 2015 Edward rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

--On the Beach
Wayne Barrett

Actual 3.5

Based simply on how this book culminated to its end I really wanted to give it 5 stars. But I just can't. I guess I'll discuss my problem with the story first and save the best (the reason I would really like to give it a 5) for last.

One book in particular that always comes to my mind when thinking of dystopian literature is Cormack McCarthy's 'The Road'; the reason being the disturbing nature of the story. Nevil Shute's 'On The Beach' is a disturbing tale as well (a big reason for wan
Feb 23, 2016 Lobstergirl rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone wearing capri pants
Shelves: fiction

Shute makes some interesting narrative choices which lessen the dramatic tension rather than increase it. Nearly everything that happens in the novel is telegraphed from the beginning. We know the radiation is headed south and will arrive in September. We are led to believe everyone, all the characters Shute creates and everyone else living on earth, will die, (view spoiler). The only real tension comes on the Scorpion's journey to Seattle: what's going on with those
Nov 16, 2015 Jaksen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Love this book, own it.

Story of a group of people waiting to die (really, they are) in Australia as a cloud of radioactive fallout moves closer and closer to them. (Most of the human population on Earth are already dead; the world has gone silent except for Australia.) The main characters go about their lives as much as possible and include the crew of the last nuclear sub (under Royal Australian command), a young married couple and their baby, a scientist who loves to drive race cars, and a you
Feb 04, 2009 Manny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
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.
Mar 16, 2014 Cateline rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
I should probably write a few words. I read this a few years ago. I will just say it was one of the most depressing books I have ever read. I felt kinda cheated by it. I just don't see people saying fuck it. Or at least not saying fuck it until they have at least tried. Really I was pissed when I finished it. As in threw the book across the room and cursed. Thinking about it now pisses me off. So, there was power in the story because I remember it very well. Don't read this if you take anti depr ...more
Mike (the Paladin)
Sep 22, 2013 Mike (the Paladin) rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
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.
Dillwynia Peter
Jan 15, 2016 Dillwynia Peter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the bleakest apocalyptic novel out - and it was written in 1957!
Shute is an adventure and romance writer, so it would be great to see why he suddenly wrote a in the near future story of disaster. I would guess the Cold War & the Suez Crisis set him thinking.

1stly, it is really, really important to remember that Shute is not an A Grade writer, he is definitely in the B Grade, so the writing is pedestrian. Some of the characters are also a bit cardboard & none are truly stel
Sep 23, 2015 Ellie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, classics
On the Beach is one of the saddest things I have ever read. The fact that everyone is so jolly and getting on with their lives, for however long that may be, makes it even more tragic. Not a single character is a villain, no one deserves to die, certainly not a horrible prolonged death. Radiation poisoning is one of the scariest things out there; with very little anyone can do to help.

It all starts off quite chipper. The short third war has destroyed the northern hemisphere but down in Australia
Before Cormac McCarthy's 2006 classic The Road, there was Nevil Shute's On The Beach.

On the Beach's epigraph is: "The world ends not with a bang, but a whimper."

This book had me weeping at the end. The greatest anti-war story ever and not a single shot is fired.

The Plot: After a nuclear World War III has destroyed most of the globe, the few remaining survivors, ordinary people in the suburbs of southern Australia wait for the radioactive cloud to blow their way and bring certain death. There is
(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
Jul 19, 2008 Maureen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Maureen by: a high closet shelf
Shelves: eschatology, novel
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
Mar 04, 2008 Granny rated it it was amazing  ·  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.
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Who else thinks that this book didn't age well? 10 168 Sep 04, 2014 02:28AM  
six months to live 16 128 May 22, 2014 11:49AM  
Madison Mega-Mara...: On the Beach by Nevil Shute 1 2 Jun 18, 2012 12:35PM  
  • Level 7
  • Emergence
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  • Earth Abides
  • Warday
  • Eternity Road
  • Summer of the Apocalypse
  • Beyond Armageddon
  • Greybeard
  • The Genocides
  • The Last Ship
  • Down to a Sunless Sea
  • Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse
  • The Wild Shore (Three Californias Triptych, #1)
  • Malevil
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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...

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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.” 41 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.” 22 likes
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