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On The Beach


Neville Shute

On The Beach
average rating is 3 out of 5

Science Fiction, Dystopia, War

R. Alex Jenkins

The main characters are really personable and likeable in a tantalizingly hopeless way. Everyone is basically doomed.

Set in Australia in the aftermath World War II, although dialogue is rather formal in places it's the best part of the book. People are alive and vivid, and conversations, especially between Dwight and Moira are often electric, but also strangely sexless.

Unfortunately, the scientific chapters are rather agricultural and there's not much fast-paced action either. Imagine smoking a cigarette dressed in a hazmat suit inside a submerged military submarine - preposterous by today's standards.

Food for thought

This book made me realise how ignorant I am about southern hemisphere geography. Imagine a map of Australia and a wave of radiation coming from the northern hemisphere down. It hits Darwin first and then works its way south across the country to Melbourne last of all, then onto Tasmania and New Zealand. I always thought southern cities such as Sydney and Canberra were facing the north? It's all twisted around in my head. It's colder and rainier in the south too because of closer proximity to Antarctica, with Australians traveling sideways across the Pacific ocean to get anywhere by ship. It's all reversed and back-to-front and bafflingly upside down.

I also learned what a cobalt bomb is! After dropping a nuclear missile, the radioactive fallout remains in the atmosphere for decades. Cobalt bombs have never been manufactured, thankfully, probably because of their horrendous half life of five years!

It also makes you think. If Russia attacked China and vice-versa, what major powers would come to their aid? The USA? Europe? NATO? Australia? I don't think so. India, maybe?

For all its likeability, On The Beach is too unemotional and predictable in the final quarter to deserve a great rating, plus there's an overly long section about motor racing that's just silly.

Maybe I'll revise my opinion later on and give this four stars because of how refreshing and charming it is.

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