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This Is the Way the World Ends

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  1,651 ratings  ·  116 reviews
When tombstone engraver George Paxman is offered a bargain, he doesn't hesitate. His beloved daughter gets an otherwise unaffordable survival suit to protect her from radioactive fall-out and all George has to do is sign a document admitting that, as a passive citizen who did nothing to stop it, he has a degree of guilt for any nuclear war that breaks out. George signs on ...more
Paperback, SF Masterworks, 320 pages
Published June 13th 2013 by Gollancz (first published 1986)
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Average rating 3.74  · 
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This is a trenchant, intelligent, clever, and deeply moral examination of the madness that lies at the heart of the threat of nuclear war. Written in the mid-80’s, when the long Cold War was on its last legs, reading it now is a sort of time capsule experience, but a satisfying and provocative one nonetheless. Morrow isn’t quite as brilliant and compulsively readable as Vonnegut at his best, but he displays excellent and thoughtful craftsmanship, and a rare gift for satire that truly bites.

My r
Nov 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wry, facetiously bleak, and surprisingly kindly satire on human condition, operating around themes stereotypically/quintessentially American: God, military, and a nuclear family with 1.8 children.

Quite a bit more fanciful, rumbustious and fabricated, than what one perhaps expected it to be, recalling the closest perceivable equivalent - the less sentimental, conceivably more universally piercing and innately sardonic Vonnegut.

For essentially a biting caricature, unexpectedly sweet, too, with its
Feb 21, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
My third read by Morrow and, while in all honestly, least favorite, still very, very good. Started off amazingly, then slogged somewhat. But thematically so clever and thought provoking and so funny. Might be the funniest book ever written on such a dire subject. Subject whose relevance may have ebbed for a while, but much like bell bottom jeans and other ugly things from the past, rears its hideous mug again via convoluted politics of the present day. This book is a well executed satire about t ...more
Michael Brown
Oct 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
Sep 05, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. A h
May 30, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pulp, fiction
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
Roddy Williams
George Paxton is a carver of funeral stones. Being a decent man George needs to ensure that his daughter is safe in a world of nuclear proliferation and wants to buy her a Scopas anti radiation suit. As George's wife has just been fired from her job at a pet shop for 'blowing up' a tarantula, the cost has become prohibitive.
George is then approached by an old woman whom he assumes at first to be a ghost. She sends him off to meet with a Mad Hatter character who sells him a golden Scopas suit but
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
Jan 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Daniel Gonçalves
Aug 08, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Alexander Peterhans
An odd little book, which only gets curiouser and curiouser the further on you read.

Constantly switches between absurdism, satire, commentary (on Mutual Assured Destruction and other deterrence doctrines), pure horror (briefly, but sharply) and extremely human, moving sequences. With generous dollops of Alice In Wonderland.

Hope you like your nuclear apocalypse whimsical but harrowing.
May 10, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2015, did-not-finish
*1.75 stars

May 23, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
Clearly, this isn’t you, this is me.
The premise of This is the way the world ends is very intriguing and promising : in the XVIth century, Nostradamus explains to a young boy how the world is going to end, either in fire or in ice, during the Cold War. And bim, flash forward, we meet Georges, a father and a husband living in the USA during said period. And bim, I am bored.
Last week, I went to a fantasy festival called Les Imaginales, in France.
There, I had the chance to take a lunch with James
Michael Logan
Dec 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Exactly my kind of bizarre, and a searing satire. Highly recommended to all and sundry.
Sep 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american, offbeat
For a Post-Apocalyptic nightmare, this was actually quite entertaining. Sort of like Catch-22 meets Dr. Strangelove, with a little bit of Slaughterhouse Five thrown in for good measure.
Jul 29, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great book about the horror of nuclear holocaust from the point of view of an Everyman and from those responsible for making Armageddon possible. It makes one horrifying point that I had not considered (view spoiler) ...more
Richard Howard
Oct 11, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2019
Turgid, over-long and terribly dated. The idea is a good one but gets lost amidst the quite bizarre surrealism of the unfolding narrative. If you want to understand the idiocy of MAD you'd be better off watching 'Dr Strangelove'. ...more
Oct 21, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
One of my favorite authors. Towing Jehovah was his best, IMHO.
Jan 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
A strange mishmash of tones and narrative devices, This is the Way the World Ends never coalesces into a good story and doesn’t have any clear message to deliver either. It’s not weird enough to be fascinating either, but merely caused me to scratch my head and wonder what Morrow was trying to achieve.

The book opens with a frame narrative of Nostradamus telling a young boy how the world ends in a nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union. What is the purpose of this frame n
Amanda Ure
Nov 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 02, 2021 rated it did not like it
This book is from a genre that does not appeal to me. I found the premise of the book ridiculous - six people spared from nuclear annihilation just so they could be tried and hanged for crimes against humanity. I found the narrative disjointed . It didn't flow from one scene to another at all. I didn't much like the main character. But then, I didn't dislike him either. In terms of where I am with the book, it's a real miss.

I think that the book is meant to be a parody of 1950s American consumer
Jan 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
George Paxton who engraves tombstones for a living, wants to get his young daughter, a protective suit against nuclear radiation that has become the must have item across America. Unable to afford it, he’s offered one for her, if he just signed a document admitting responsibility for letting any nuclear war happen. He signs, and it happens. As one of the survivors, Paxton is taken with the five others, by people who will now never exist because of the nuclear war to be put on trial for it in Ant ...more
DeAnna Knippling
Dec 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The world ends in a nuclear holocaust. But blame can only be shifted so far, as those who would never be born hold five warmongers and one ordinary guy to account.

I like the story on this, but the style was difficult to endure through an entire book; it's like watching someone kick a bunch of people in the groin. Arguably, at least some of them deserve it, but there's only so long it's funny, which for me wasn't very long. By the end I was too numb to be much effected by what should have been th
Aug 14, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, apocalyptic
The first section is compelling and well written. The rest is a surrealist mess.
Yes nuclear war is terrible. But better stories have been written about it; Children of the Dust by Louise Lawrence for one.

Even at the end of the world the male gaze persists; "Her excellent skin had the color and vibrancy of boiling fudge .... her splendid breasts floated upward like helium balloons released in celebration of some great atheletic or political victory." Yes even watching someone about to hang hersel
Jul 10, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I don't know what to do with this book... The writing is vivid and intriguing while the plot is allusive and difficult to follow. A mix match between surrealism and science fiction, this story left me feeling interested and confused throughout the entire read. I feel that Morrow could have polished this story better: maybe by sacrificing some of his offbeat humor for literary clarity? I would give it five stars for the wonderful imagery, but then would have to give it zero stars because the wond ...more
Jan 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
too much "reading" for me. does that make sense?
i'll explain. this book is about nuclear war. it starts as a story should, about someone.
all of the middle is filled with too much philosophical stuff. it was very well written, and yet, i felt a miss.
the start and ending are the highlights of this book. oh, and vultures, mustn't forget them :).

it's a good book. anyone in politics should read it...
I found this an interesting take on a post nuclear apocalypse earth. Our protagonist, George, survives the war and finds himself in a surreal, possibly alien, sort of Alice in Wonderland future that I found oddly entertaining. Most surprising, despite the obvious and catastrophic consequences of the nuclear war, the author maintained a very 1980's anti Soviet Union attitude and I had the impression that he actually supported nuclear MAD deterrent doctrine. ...more
Hannele Kormano
Dec 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: something-new
A sprightly jaunt through the nuclear apocalypse. You need a certain amount of tolerance for the main character, who talks to his irradiated sperm a lot.

But if you like Douglas Adams type irreverence, it is fun to read about the present being held accountable for the nuclear tragedy - both by the future that can now never happen, and the past whose accomplishments are now worthless.
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SF Masterworks Group: This Is the Way the World Ends by James Morrow 1 7 Apr 26, 2013 08:17AM  

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Born in 1947, James Kenneth 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, incl ...more

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