This Is the Way the World Ends
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This Is the Way the World Ends

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  848 ratings  ·  49 reviews
The Gulliver’s Travels of the nuclear age, the Alice in Wonderland of the arms race, this mordantly funny and visionary tale of the apocalypse was a Nebula finalist. The trouble starts when George Paxton ingenuously signs an admission of complicity in starting World War III. “The only book in the last ten years that I’ve read twice...a remarkable achievement” (Arthur C. Cl...more
Paperback, A Harvest Book, 319 pages
Published April 24th 1995 by Harcourt Brace & company (first published 1986)
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Sep 09, 2007 Tracey rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: to survivors of the Cold War who are still haunted by [b]The Day After[/b]
I bought a remaindered copy of This Is the Way the World Ends sometime last year & picked it off Mount ToBeRead earlier this week.

George Paxton wants to buy a scopas survival suit for his daughter for Christmas, but can't afford one, as he works on commission as a tombstone carver. A mysterious old woman sends him to a remarkable shop, where he signs a contract admitting complicity in the nuclear arms race in return for a suit. World War Three erupts; as nasty and brutal as everyone expects....more
Michael Brown
I think that for all of us who read regularly to the point where we can't imagine a life without doing it, there are one or two books that feel like they're Ours. Things we found without prompting, discoveries we made ourselves with no help or guidance from anyone or anything, but which change us in a way and refract our expectations into smoother, deeper and more pleasing waters. This is one of mine. Dear God, it has everything! I grinned and laughed, I sighed and I cried - without being too sp...more
Two simple intertwined premises, near-perfect execution. The first is that citizens of a free society carry with them an extraordinary responsibility for the responsible governance of that society. The complaints about everything from fast food to sleazy politicians are little more than tilting at windmills unless The People decide to stop empowering that which we loathe.

The second is that effects of war--especially in an age of mass destruction--have with them the ability to wipe out our histor...more
Two stars for trying so hard, being in English and not having very many typos.

This book, which aspires to a great deal, ends up being utterly pedestrian. I picked it up thinking it would be funny; I mean, would anyone seriously title a book "This is the Way the World Ends"? Apparently, the answer to that question is an enthusiastic "Hell Yes!".

There's plenty of room for humor in a subject as over-the-top as the apocalyptic extinction of the human race. However, Morrow leaves that fertile ground...more
Daniel Gonçalves
Aug 09, 2013 Daniel Gonçalves rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: post apocalyptic novels fans
The first 100 pages of this book were one of the best 100 pages I've ever read. It sparkled an incredibly great amount of interest in me. The narrative was fluid, captivating, itriguing and geniune.

But, after page 120, you start to loose interest, It's as if the author had gone crazy in while writing the novel. The story becomes convuluted and the plot all over the place. The author begins to preach his ideals onto paper, and that's when I usually start to hate the book.

I didn't really hate thi...more
I'll have to read this again to be certain in my judgment. It starts off absurd, sort of Vonnegut-like, culminates in what is both paltry drama and an excellent satire of political and military thinking, and ends tragically — stirring even the hearth fires of my heart a bit. It's a weird book, that has brilliance in it, a fair amount of cheesiness, and ends on a majestically melancholy note.
I remember back in the 80s when we were actually afraid of nuclear war – watching things like The War Game and Threads, worrying about Mutually Assured Destruction and seriously thinking about painting our windows white or buying fall-out shelters.

Didn’t happen though… the world’s still here. We’re scared of other things instead now… like swarthy men with beards arguing about their imaginary friend... /Sigh.

A great book nontheless – shades of Vonnegut and PKD, a touch of Catch 22 all wrapped in...more
It was kind of slow. Frustrating, because the description of The Unadmitted was vague and their origins made no sense to me. Left me with that, yeah, whatever feeling.
Oct 02, 2013 Kelly added it
One of my favorite authors. Towing Jehovah was his best, IMHO.
the back cover says: Picks up where Dr. Strangelove leaves off.

i must have read that when i picked the book out of the bargain bin, so i must have known it wasn't your usual (serious) dramatic end-of-the- world-as-we-know-it story. still i'm surprised when i start it to find the dark humour, the satire, the irony, the absurd fantastical elements. i don't usually think of humour and post apocalyptic themes going together. well, except for Dr. Strangelove.

i'm about halfway through and while ther...more
Diana Welsch
I like to read these post-apocalyptic novels because I like depressing things. This one was different from any that I'd read. It was a satire of sorts, along with a strange kind of fantasy, a legal drama, and a little of the depressing stuff thrown in for good measure.

It follows tombstone engraver George Paxton, who is pretty happy with his life. He's satisfied with his marriage, his job, and dotes on his young daughter, Holly. The world he lives in seems to be on the brink of nuclear war, but t...more
I really enjoyed This is the Way the World Ends. The moment I saw the T.S. Eliot reference, I grabbed it up from work. Also, I needed a few short-ish novels to read and this one had someone in a gas mask on the cover.

It was equal parts interesting, weird and frustrating. The crux of the plot is that George Paxton, boring everyman, signs a contract that makes him complicit to any nuclear war that occurs. After the inevitable nuclear war occurs, Paxton is rescued from the rubble of his town by a U...more
Samuel Lubell
This is a science fiction satire written in the cold war (1986 publishing date) A carver of tombstone can't afford to buy a scopas suit that is supposed to protect its wearer in case of nuclear war. But he is offered a free suit for his daughter if he signs a contact admitting his complicity in the nation's policy of nuclear brinkmanship. He signs but before he can make it home the missiles start flying and the world is destroyed. George is saved by a submarine crewed by the dead might-have-been...more
Edward Davies
Clever ideas aren’t always good, and satire can often go over a readers head. Here we have a great example of clever satire that shows how in the future governments will plan ahead for scapegoats when nuclear accidents occur, but it does at times become something of a chore to get through. The characters here get a little confusing in places, but I’d say the final segment is the strongest, with the protagonist going on trial for the destruction of the human race simply because he wanted to buy h...more
This novel tries so hard to be witty and snarky.

You can tell from the initial set-up and the dialogue in the first pages. Morrow pushes each scene so hard to be hip and cutting and meta. Oy. Too much. It bursts at the seams of being overwritten and way out of its depth.

I found the first few chapters to be uneven, unfunny, and uninteresting.
Rumbie Mugadza
I read this as a teenager and I still think about. The parade of History is one of the most firmly imprinted images of any book in my mind. I would definitely recommend this as a work of post apocalyptic fiction as well as an interesting and well thought out book to scare one out of the apathy that consumes us in day to day society.
A wonderful, if heart wrenching, book. I couldn't help but put myself in George's place throughout this book and wonder, like he does, would I have done anything differently? In turns comic, tragic, psychedelic, and somber, this book certainly plucked at my heart strings more forcefully a than hungry vulture. Some have complained the trial section is too long but, whilst it did not get as much of an emotional reaction from me as the other elements I found it nonetheless engaging, I am just thank...more
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Nov 08, 2008 Ravena rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Ravena by: Darrell
The great fear of our generation: nuclear war resulting in the extinction of all living creatures. Yeah, not exactly an uplifting book. But very well-written, as I've come to expect from Morrow. The concepts are straight-forward, aimed at the blunders often involved with arms races, but also with a sensitivity and compassion for even the biggest idiots.

I do recommend this book, but only if you're in the mood for something as light and fluffy as a mushroom cloud. (I will add that the exquisite d...more
Benjamin Kahn
Just a great book. I was drawn in initially by the humour, but this story was a rich one, full of pathos and heart. I can't recommend it enough.
(I don't give away the ending but I do describe a major plot point, in case that sort of thing matters to you...)

Well, the writing isn't great (I'm fortunately pretty good at ignoring this) but this book is still pretty solid as far as Cold War-era post-apocalyptic courtroom dramas go. The premise is cool: after the US and USSR wipe out our species, the future's unborn masses arise and put six men on trial for denying them their lives. It got a bit fantastical for me in places, but there are sti...more
A punch in the gut. Several punches in the gut.
Michelle M
This one was a hard one to read, though worth the ride. I found my expectations were way off, it started as a bit satirical, whimsical, and quickly turned into stomach-clenching, heart-wrenching depictions that were truly awful. Just as quickly it was surreal, then turned into a very long stretch of legal and technical speak that scrambled my brain. I love how innovative and imaginative Morrow is, but I did find this very hard to read at times, for many reasons.
Matthew Sarookanian
One of the best Sci-Fi/End of world books I have ever read. You will never be able to guess the next moment in this book, so don't even try. It spins a Alice In Wonderlandish tale about the end of the world and how humans will have to answer for their stupidity. Very well written and the satire isn't laid on so thick that the piece crumbles beneath it Morrow writes in a way that is both funny and a page turner. A great read!
A heart breaking and sometimes terrifying novel. I've seen a few reviews express disappointment with the middle third of the book, but I can't say that I share that opinion. I can imagine this would have been an emotionally rough read when it was first released.
Interesting read. Manages a comic and tragic tone along with a unique satire of the post apocalypse genre. The ideas are thought provoking but gets three stars for being all dialogue and having a real speed bump of a trial scene that seemed endless. This is compared to Vonnegut, which I havent read so I dont know but sounds about right. Better than any fantasy series garbage at least.
An interesting book. Alice in Wonderland draped over a post-apocalyptic Earth. World War 3 wipes us out and the happy future that could have been come back to exact justice. Biting and cynical throughout the book with a touching and emotional final act. Polarizing throughout the entire read. I either hated it and wanted to throw it across the room or I loved it.
Jeff Rowe
I was raised in the 70's-80's, so I have some awareness of the Cold War. At first I thought the author was going for farce or black-comedy a la Dr. Strangelove, but it's not funny. It's just strange. He starts pushing the notion of personal responsibility for Armageddon which gets dull fast. Yeah, we get it. We got it at the time. What a dumb book.
Who would have thought nuclear annihilation could be so fun? Very witty, humorous, and wonderfully absurd, though I imagine when it was published back in 1985 the idea of nuclear war between the U.S. and Soviet Union elicited more actual fear than it does now. Today's terrors make the arms race of my youth seem so quaint and uncomplicated. Sigh...
Janene Tamborello
A little disappointing because I had high hopes. I think it would have read better if you had the book in the 80's. Reminded me of Catch-22 a bit. Clever and wacky but more of a man's book I think. I did laugh out loud in a few places and the writing itself was very good. Maybe I was just not in the mood for satire.
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SF Masterworks Group: This Is the Way the World Ends by James Morrow 1 5 Apr 26, 2013 08:17AM  
  • Drowning Towers
  • Beyond Armageddon
  • A Wrinkle in the Skin
  • Unquenchable Fire (Unquenchable Fire, #1)
  • Down to a Sunless Sea
  • The Year of the Quiet Sun
  • Floating Worlds
  • The Wild Shore (Three Californias Triptych, #1)
  • Mother of Storms
  • Some Will Not Die
  • Arslan
  • Greybeard
  • Of Men and Monsters
  • On Wings of Song
  • The Embedding
  • Synners
  • Take Back Plenty (Tabitha Jute, #1)
  • Engine Summer
Born in 1947, James Morrow has been writing fiction ever since he, as a seven-year-old living in the Philadelphia suburbs, dictated “The Story of the Dog Family” to his mother, who dutifully typed it up and bound the pages with yarn. This three-page, six-chapter fantasy is still in the author’s private archives. Upon reaching adulthood, Jim produced nine novels of speculative fiction, including th...more
More about James K. Morrow...
Towing Jehovah (Godhead, #1) Only Begotten Daughter The Last Witchfinder City of Truth Blameless in Abaddon (Godhead, #2)

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