Have you ever thought about apocalypse? What if the world is going to end, and what if you know that you’d be dead in the next few months? What would you do? How would you spend the last few days of your life? This is what forms the crux of “On the Beach” by Nevil Shute. In this 1957 book a nuclear war has already taken place and the whole of Northern Hemisphere is dead, and the winds are carrying the radiation to Southern Hemisphere and Australia where the book is based.
Since the first page you know that everybody is going to die, but how each one embraces the inevitable is what the novel is all about. Commander Towers, one of few alive Americans, his main concern is his submarine. Even if he is about to die, his duty comes first. Moira – her life is now all about Cmdr Towers, even though she knows that he is still married at heart to his long dead wife. Peter Holmes, who just wants to make life (and death) as comfortable as possible for his wife and daughter. Mary Holmes, who is in denial and thinks that they would not die as they live far off from the city. And the most intriguing character – Julian Osborne, who starts living his dream, buys an F1 car and even though does not know racing takes part in the last race ever held, and wins as none of the drivers care about dying and in massive pileups many drivers die; in the end very few cars are left and because of his superior car he wins the race.
This is one powerful book. Even though it is more then 50 years old, this book could have been written/released just yesterday. Keep yourself in the position of any of the protagonists and imagine what would you do in such a situation, that time the full impact of the book hits you. There is a 1959 movie “On the Beach” based on the novel. I’d love to watch it, will try to find the movie.