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On the Beach

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  31,649 ratings  ·  2,209 reviews
Nevil Shute’s most powerful novel—a bestseller for decades after its 1957 publication—is an unforgettable vision of a post-apocalyptic world.

After a nuclear World War III has destroyed most of the globe, the few remaining survivors in southern Australia await the radioactive cloud that is heading their way and bringing certain death to everyone in its path. Among them is a
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Paperback, 312 pages
Published February 9th 2010 by Vintage International (first published July 1957)
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JD This isn't really an "enjoy the plot" type of book, since the plot involves the aftermath of nuclear war. We already know, or strongly suspect, that…moreThis isn't really an "enjoy the plot" type of book, since the plot involves the aftermath of nuclear war. We already know, or strongly suspect, that all the characters will be dead by the end of the book. No tricky plot twists!

The focus is more on how the characters cope with all this and come to terms psychologically with the loss of their families, their world, and their own impending death.

Spoiler: this is not the sort of nuclear holocaust book that features a brave survivor struggling to survive while building a lean-to in the rubble and/or fighting off mutant giant rats.
This is the type of nuclear holocaust books where you are waiting for the radioactive clouds to drift towards Australia and wipe humanity off the face of the earth. Everyone already knows there is no chance of survival. The conflict is more like, Should I euthanize my baby right now or wait till the radiation poisoning sets in?(less)

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3.93  · 
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 ·  31,649 ratings  ·  2,209 reviews


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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.”

 photo 923a08d5-7ac4-40e1-8533-0a8ec35137b8_zpsa1ff16d3.gif
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
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karen
Oct 17, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Duane
Oct 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a dystopian story that is possible, it could really happen. How a global nucular war would play out nobody knows, but Nevil Shute's version is realistic. It is tragic, horrific, romantic, and sad. It shows humanity at it's best and it's worst and makes us all wonder how we would react in a similar situation. The ending was brilliant; an instant tear in the eye and lump in the throat.
Hanneke
May 14, 2013 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
Michael
"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
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Megan
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
Chrisl
Jan 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sff, australia, 1950s
Unlike many others by Nevil, I've only read this one once. Didn't see movie. Remember enjoying the Australian setting and characters, how Shute depicted their mindsets and behaviors.

Encourage readers who have read only this to try others by the author. Pied Piper, Round the Bend, and ... Alice.
Pied Piper
Round the Bend
A Town Like Alice
A classic post holocaust speculation from when terrorism wasn't ...

When stationed at SAC, near Omaha, in the early 1960s, my barracks was closest to the flight lin
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Jan-Maat
This is a tricky book to review without spoilers, there is basically only one incident that drives the entire book, and that happens off the page before the book begins, and that event means that a certain thing is going to happen, to everybody, the problem is that this certain thing will happen to everyone anyway (sorry if that comes as a spoiler to you, but it does) so from a literary point of view the author either has to find some new or particular meaning or convince us that this is particu ...more
Sara
Nov 04, 2015 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
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Tracey
What do you do when all hope is lost?
For the people in this book about our world dying of radiation after an atomic war the answer seems to be carry on as normally as possible. Go to the beach, swim, sail, go to work, enjoy parties and drink, plant the daffodils, clear the trees and chop the wood .
There is no let up for the reader, always the knowledge that it will happen.
It's a bleak vision of a post apocalyptic world that is at once both terrifying and moving.
As I said in my earlier update it
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Carrie
Apr 09, 2008 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 apocalyptic....it 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 offensive....in England, it is not....however, I have decline
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Lucas
Dec 23, 2008 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
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Deborah Ideiosepius
This is an old, absolute classic, of science fiction from the days before sci-fi and fiction had separate shelves in the bookstores, it is almost the prototype of dystopian fiction. Re-reading it after many years I wonder if it was one of the books that helped fix in the public's mind the notion of 'mutually assured destruction' and of just how costly to the planet nuclear war must be.

Despite the finality of the end, it is surprisingly not depressing, rather I found it a cleansing sort of ending
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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
Jim
Nov 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Anna
Jun 27, 2008 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
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
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Annie
Aug 15, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Dear God, that was depressing. Soul-crushingly depressing.

But considering this is a book about the end of the world, there’s no sense of urgency. There’s just this sense of complacency among most of the characters that drives me crazy. Captain Towers’s philosophy is a good example: “You just can’t dodge it. You’ve got to take what’s coming to you, and make the best of it. We’ve just got to take it.”

Towers (and the author, clearly) gets frustrated with Moira, my favourite character, because he
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Suzanne
Oh God, Sebastian, what did you do to me? At Goodreads, we have a tradition in December called "The 12 Days of Goodreads" where we essentially send a chain email across the company with each person nominating a book to be given to the next person, and so on. We have 12 Days to complete the chain. In 2016, Sebastian, chose "On the Beach" for me. I must admit I was a bit grumpy about this as I had carefully cleaned up my Want to Read shelf to ensure maximum chances of getting a book I was really i ...more
Rosie
Aug 23, 2015 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
smetchie
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
...more
Edward
Nov 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Acknowledgement

--On the Beach
Lisa
Sep 25, 2007 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 days...how they prepare...how 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
Manny
Dec 20, 2008 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.
Lobstergirl
Feb 21, 2016 rated it liked it
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
...more
David
(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
...more
Noriko
Apr 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wasn't expecting that I would be on the verge of tears, but the latter half, particularly the last chapter cannot be read without a poignant, heart-wrenching grief over the recognition "the world is going to end."
It was such a blow to me.

There is not much going on in the first half, just descriptions of the banality of everyday life, if you like, but in the latter half, the notion of dooms day slowly creeped in throughout, which made me feel so sad that I had to put it down.

The writing is gen
...more
Lita
May 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
[A 20th-century classic]

After reading ' A Town Like Alice' last year, I knew I would be picking up another Nevil Shute's book in no time. Little did I know that he can pull off a dystopian novel like no one else. Unlike the usual messed up version of some kind of future, we are faced with an end of humanity as a result of reckless and stupid nuclear war. It comes as a wave of radiation sweeping across the planet and causing all living things to die. The last largest city left untouched is Melbou
...more
Jaksen
Nov 16, 2015 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
...more
Saturday's Child
Apr 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Despite this being a well know novel with movie versions I have never taken much notice of it or its genre, in fact I had no idea it was post apocalyptic. If I had not recently read one of Shute’s other novels and found it entertaining I may never have taken the time to read this one. I find his writing style to be very matter of fact so it was easy for me to imagine the world in which this plot is set.
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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.
“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.” 69 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.” 27 likes
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