“On the Beach”

Nevil Shute

As my two or three readers may have noticed, I’m way behind in my book posts. I don’t, in real life, go months without reading and then read a dozen books in a week or so. For this blog post, that delay has interacted with world events to make it much different that I would have been had I done it in a more timely manner.

I read “On The Beach” while on vacation last Fall in, mostly, Austria and Germany. Flying across oceans, crossing borders, enjoying crowded beer halls, and living in hotels was commonplace. Fun, as always, but unremarkable. Now all those things seem like fantasies because as I write this the world is in the grip of the Coronavirus pandemic. You sense “it” getting closer, just like the “it” in this book…

“On the Beach” is about the last survivors of a nuclear war. They’re in Australia and seasonal weather patterns are bringing the radiation that’s already killed most of the people in the world who weren’t killed in the blasts closer and closer. There are some shortages, but life goes on pretty normally except for the fact that everyone knows all human life will soon cease.

The heart of the story is how people – including the crew of a US submarine that goes to America’s coast to see if anyone survives there – react to the approaching doom.

It’s a very good book, better and deeper, as far as I can recall, then the movie that was made from it.

And no, I don’t mean to suggest that Coronavirus is going to kill everyone, but let’s just say the book resonates right now.

(“On the Beach” is available for free online, but it’s only legal in Canada (wink, wink).)