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This Is the Way the World Ends

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  1,328 Ratings  ·  81 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.
Paperback, A Harvest Book, 319 pages
Published April 24th 1995 by Harcourt Brace & company (first published 1986)
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Sep 05, 2007 rated it really liked it
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.
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
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
May 30, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
May 25, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
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
May 23, 2016 rated it it was ok
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
Daniel Gonçalves
Aug 08, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  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
Nov 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Triste novela sobre el fin del mundo tras un holocausto nuclear donde ni siquiera el surrealismo o el humor habituales en Morrow atenúan la angustia ante la desaparición de toda la vida en el planeta. Gran parte de la narración se sostiene sobre cómo se pone en solfa la dialéctica de la Guerra Fría, la política de disuasión y el concepto de la destrucción mutua asegurada. Morrow hace corresponsable a todo el pueblo estadounidense en un juicio final despiadado. Muy bien escrita, se pierde un poco ...more
Michael Logan
Dec 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Exactly my kind of bizarre, and a searing satire. Highly recommended to all and sundry.
May 10, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, did-not-finish
*1.75 stars

Jul 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
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)
Oct 02, 2013 added it
One of my favorite authors. Towing Jehovah was his best, IMHO.
Oct 21, 2008 rated it liked it
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.
Diana Welsch
Feb 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
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
Jap Hengky
Feb 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: in-the-shelf
This Is The Way The World Ends is a provocative poke in the back for any American still celebrating their "victory" in the Cold War, a friendly reminder that it was a harsh and foolish period in American history, one that we'd all do well to remember for a long time to come.
Samuel Lubell
Dec 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
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
Jan 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Written during the Cold War, this is an often funny take on the various rationales for nuclear deterrence. Ordinary Guy is one of the few survivors of global war, saved to be taken and tried in Antarctica by those unborn because the the war. These have emerged by quantum means (you don't need to believe it) from the ice of Antarctica to try those responsible, which includes our hero and a bunch of policy makers of the US. Our hero is responsible because he signed a contract to purchase an anti-b ...more
Albert Myburgh
For some books a rating out of five feels oversimplified however in the case of this book 3 stars mean exactly what it was to me: I liked it. Good satire and a great concept where six people are saved by [spoiler] from total nuclear annihilation only to be put on trial and being implicated in the nuclear disaster.

I'm certain that good arguments can be given for why it does not qualify as science fiction, but since the genre is widely defined I will give it the benefit of the doubt. The language
Mar 18, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Dec 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Theo Karner
Oct 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-fiction, sci-fi
Wow, an interesting read and one that definitely entered the realms of fantasy. this book is set in a post apocalyptic setting, or post-exchange environment as the book refers to it, and follows the main character just before and after 'the exchange'. The fantasy element comes in via the trial of six surviving humans by the unadmitted (humans that would have existed if the exchange didn't make the human species extinct) and some run ins with humans from the past. Even though fantastical and even ...more
Mar 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 09, 2014 rated it it was ok
This was odd. Kind of Alice In Wonderland meets Chuck Palahniuk. An interesting concept but not particularly well executed. In parts the author spoon feeds the reader excessive details of the plot and in others the author abandons the reader to figure it out for themselves. This gives the book a disjointed and unpolished tone. I originally gave this three stars but came and took one away when, upon reflection, I realised the book had made so little impact that less than 12 hours after finishing ...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
Sep 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
(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
Jan 13, 2015 rated it it was ok
The first third of this book is amongst the finest you will ever read. After that it's pure nonsensical drivel. I read the first 100 pages in a day, it took me seven months to finish the rest. It took real willpower to sit down and finish this, I'd start reading and get fed up after a few pages then read something else instead. If the rest of the book carried on like the first hundred pages or so, this would a guaranteed five star. Sadly the last 2 thirds feel like they were written by someone e ...more
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SF Masterworks Group: This Is the Way the World Ends by James Morrow 1 6 Apr 26, 2013 08:17AM  
  • Drowning Towers
  • Beyond Armageddon: Twenty-One Sermons to the Dead
  • Half Past Human (The Hive, #1)
  • A Wrinkle in the Skin
  • Unquenchable Fire (Unquenchable Fire, #1)
  • The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe
  • Engine Summer
  • Good News from Outer Space
  • Transfigurations
  • Arslan
  • R.U.R. & War with the Newts
  • The Wild Shore (Three Californias Triptych, #1)
  • Helliconia Trilogy
  • Floating Worlds
  • Of Men and Monsters
  • Mother of Storms
  • The Genocides
  • Take Back Plenty (Tabitha Jute, #1)
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
More about James K. Morrow...

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