Book Review: On the Beach – Nevil Shute

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.

Do try to read the book, even though at times it is depressing but the way the premise is handled is amazing. I would not term the book “enjoyable” as death is not, but this is a very good read.

6 Responses to “Book Review: On the Beach – Nevil Shute”


  1. 1 manuscrypts September 23, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    there’s another book, or is that a movie?.. after an apocalypse of sorts, there are only very few human survivors, and this story is about the journey of a father and son.. for my life, i can’t figure out which…
    what would you do in your last few months is always an interesting premise🙂

  2. 2 asr September 23, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    “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 similar to stupid comments I write, when I let loose my imagination.

    May be I should write a book.
    Then (may be) for the first time a blog commentator would be come an author!

  3. 3 mythalez September 23, 2008 at 10:43 pm

    whoa .. wat a premise .. really piqued my interest

    btw .. all ur book reviews do is constantly remind me that its been months and months that i touched any fiction !! X-(

  4. 4 kiran September 25, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    Is it good to buy the books online or to buy from shop ??
    If online which sites can be trusted..

    -kiran

  5. 5 Kunal October 3, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    manuscrypts, no idea which movie/book are you talking about… if you remember the name, do let me know.

    asr, now that would be a very innovative book, compiled from all the comments you have written🙂

    Rama, time to dust the book shelf😛

    kiran, you can always buy books online. try amazon, or in India you can trust indiaplaza too …

  6. 6 Jake Something February 15, 2009 at 1:54 am

    One word: shelter. Why doesn’t anybody get the idea to gather supplies and build a shelter to wait until the radiation reaches survivable levels? It’s not only probable, it’s plain human nature to find a way to survive.
    But the worst aspect was the ignorance of the nature of nuclear fallout. To get an idea of the scientific errors in this book, visit this little page: http://www.oism.org/nwss/s73p912.htm. The “fatal fallout” myth gets busted wide open, along with other end-of-all life fantasies.
    In short, bad science and a bastardized view of human nature conspire to make a very bad book.


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I write! Topic does not matter, can be my life, or my travels, or any match I saw, or the Hyderabadi life, or reminiscing about Raipur, or penning Short Stories & 55s.

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