Friday, 17 November 2017

Book Review: On The Beach by Nevil Shute

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 an American submarine captain struggling to resist the knowledge that his wife and children in the United States must be dead. Then a faint Morse code signal is picked up, transmitting from somewhere near Seattle, and Captain Towers must lead his submarine crew on a bleak tour of the ruined world in a desperate search for signs of life. On the Beach is a remarkably convincing portrait of how ordinary people might face the most unimaginable nightmare.

My Review: 
The idea of the book is very good. Nuclear war has destroyed life around the planet and the people in Australia are the last left alive. It is here that the remaining naval forces are gathered and the people are waiting for the toxic radiation to reach them and kill them too. Now if that isn't a sobering plot then I don't know what is. Can you imagine knowing that in the next few weeks or months, radiation is going to make you seriously ill and then give you a painful death? What is it like to have pills that will kill you quickly and when do you use them? I've been curious about the book for years but had never read it.

I'm afraid I seem to be one of the minority who didn't love this book. To be fair to the author, it was written a long while ago when a lot of books were quite slow in plot and heavy in description. In these older books women are often seen either as the good housewives or the bad girls with loose morals so I did go into this book fearing that I was not going to like the characters and that the plot would be too slow. It turned out exactly that way.

I just didn't understand the characters. Bearing in mind that they are going to die in the weeks and months ahead, their decisions just seemed pretty crazy to me. Peter wants a new job with the Navy but not one that takes him away for too long as he doesn't want to be away from wife Mary when it happens. OK, why is he caring about a new job at this point? Why not spend every available moment with Mary? Peter's new commander Dwight is reluctant to get involved with Moira as he doesn't want to cheat on his wife. Considering his wife was in America which has been covered in radiation all this time, it is obvious that his wife is either dead or already doomed so why worry about morality now?

The female characters were the worst. Moira is an obnoxious, rude woman whose dates with Dwight are painful to read about. She walks all over him, insists that everything be done her way and even sabotages their boat to stop him winning a race. I have no idea what the point to that was but she is an attention seeking, self obsessed tart. I despised her. Then we have Mary. She is the good little housewife who is so sadly deluded about everything. She accuses Peter of wanting to kill her with the pills so he can run away with another woman. Run WHERE? Everyone else on the planet is dead!!! Stupid woman. She is in total denial, sending Peter out to find things to use in the garden next summer and declaring the radiation will somehow stop before it reaches them. Yes there would be people like that but she was so frustrating that I wanted to throttle her.

Even the plot itself is not what I expected. It is all about Moira's dates with Dwight and Peter's new job. Everyone is going about their business and pretending things are all fine and barely mentioning what is coming. I expected more about the war instead of these dull day to day things, maybe flashbacks or something. It was just very slow and boring for my personal tastes. 

Read September 2017
2 stars.


  1. Oh, too bad it didn't work out. It does have an original plot. Dang it.

    1. I had a chance to read it while I was at school but for some reason I never did. It probably scared plenty people when it first came out but I think it's kind of dated now!