“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).)

“The Wright Brothers”

David McCullough

David McCullough’s books are always a pleasure to read and this was no exception. It’s a good biography of the Wrights which doesn’t ignore the role of their sister Katherine and which details the time they spent in Europe, neither of which I knew much about. Wilbur died in 1912 but Orville lived another 36 years. The book doesn’t have much to say about those decades, and I would have appreciated it had there been more about Orville’s life after Wilbur’s death.

While checking dates for this post in Wikipedia, I came across this (Orville’s last flight as pilot was in 1918):

On April 19, 1944, the second production Lockheed Constellation, piloted by Howard Hughes and TWA president Jack Frye, flew from Burbank, California, to Washington, D.C. in 6 hours and 57 minutes (2300 mi – 330.9 mph). On the return trip, the airliner stopped at Wright Field to give Orville Wright his last airplane flight, more than 40 years after his historic first flight.[153] He may even have briefly handled the controls. He commented that the wingspan of the Constellation was longer than the distance of his first flight.

By the way, this is not the first time the Wrights have appeared in this blog.