Andy's Reviews > On the Beach

On the Beach by Nevil Shute
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's review
Feb 28, 2008

it was ok
bookshelves: sci-fi-fantasy, war, fiction
Read in March, 2011

Wistful and wistful and wistful some more, reading like a poor man's Never Let Me Go. It is the story of the end of the world, following the last vestiges of humanity post-nuclear war, living at the southernmost reaches of the world, waiting for the fallout that has covered most of the rest of the earth's surface to catch them as well and finish them off. The story is set in Melbourne and follows the lives of several of the locals and also an American naval captain in charge of one of the last usable vessels in the world. (Be prepared for a little Aussie slang.)

Clearly this is not a cheerful subject, but for the avoidance of doubt, author Nevil Shute clobbers you over the head with sorrowful glimpses into the characters' minds and sad little vignettes. Countless times we see a character refer to or make plans for next year. But they won't be around to see next year! It's so sad! They're finding meaning in their lives doing the things they've always done though as if nothing has changed... OK, so it was sad the first time, but after the tenth time it gets a bit tiresome. It's like listening to a band who writes songs about breaking up with girls again and again. A author with more finesse and subtlety might be able to get away with this, but Shute is not that author; reading his writing is like skiing down a gentle green circle, and similarly rewarding.

Beyond trying its damnedest to make you sad, the book doesn't have a lot going on. It consists of the aforementioned scattershot vignettes, doesn't form any kind of satisfying structure, and doesn't finish any of its subplots with any kick. It's not actively dislikable - I save the 1 star rating for books of that nature - but it's thoroughly bland and woefully undernourishing in the literary sense.

Miscellany: this is the first book I read on Kindle (which I enjoyed very much). Also, it was pure coincidence that I picked this book up around the same time as the Japanese nuclear plant crisis.

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