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This Is the Way the World Ends [Paperback]

James Morrow
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 27 1995
The Gullivers Travels of the nuclear age, the Alice in Wonderland of the arms race, this mordantly funny and visionary tale of the apocalypse was a Nebula finalist. The trouble starts when George Paxton ingenuously signs an admission of complicity in starting World War III. The only book in the last ten years that Ive read twice...a remarkable achievement (Arthur C. Clarke).

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Product Description

From Library Journal

Near the end of Morrow's painful novel of nuclear holocaust six survivors representing mankind are tried for their complicity in the war. Denouncing them, an alien prosecutor says, "It did not have to be this way. Three virtues only were needed . . . . the greatest of these is moral outrage." That seems to be the key to a curiously contrived saga of nuclear nightmare. As scenes of family life are followed by explicit scenes of nuclear attack, as obscene theories of nuclear tactics are explained, the only possible reaction is moral outrage. Unfortunately, an overabundance of fantastic elementsthe prophecies of Nostradamus, giant prehistoric birds, a flying tailor shop, a mysterious alien race called the unadmittedis never quite joined into a coherent whole. In the ensuing confusion, the novel loses much of its power. Not recommended. Beth Ann Mills, New Rochelle P.L., N.Y.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Near the end of Morrow's painful novel of nuclear holocaust six survivors representing mankind are tried for their complicity in the war. Denouncing them, an alien prosecutor says, "It did not have to be this way. Three virtues only were needed . . . . the greatest of these is moral outrage." That seems to be the key to a curiously contrived saga of nuclear nightmare. As scenes of family life are followed by explicit scenes of nuclear attack, as obscene theories of nuclear tactics are explained, the only possible reaction is moral outrage. Unfortunately, an overabundance of fantastic elementsthe prophecies of Nostradamus, giant prehistoric birds, a flying tailor shop, a mysterious alien race called the unadmittedis never quite joined into a coherent whole. In the ensuing confusion, the novel loses much of its power. Not recommended. Beth Ann Mills, New Rochelle P.L., N.Y.
(Library Journal)

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars An odd, but interesting, post-pocalyptic novel Aug. 20 2002
Format:Paperback
Sandwiched between vignettes of Nostradamus, "This is the Way the World Ends" is the tale of George Paxton, and the five other remaining humans on Earth. Unfortunately for George, he and the others are being tried for war crimes stemming from the nuclear destruction of the planet by the "unadmitted"; basically unborn generations that have willed themselves into existence for a brief time in order to inquire why their potential will never be realized. Compounding George's dilemma is the fact that unlike his fellow defendants, who are all wizards of nuclear strategy, George is just a simple everyman (with the ironic profession of tomb stone carver) whose only "guilt" was in not carefully reading a sales contract for a free nuclear survival suit for his daughter.
As one can tell from this brief synopsis of the plot, this is not your ordinary work of post-apocalyptic fiction. Or rather, it covers the same ground, but from a completely different angle. The Nostradamus bookends offer an air of inevitability to the narrative, and introduce a major plot device, and Morrow's description of a nuclear war's aftermath is highly engaging. Where this novel really shines, however, is in the trial.
One might expect Morrow to be a staunch proponent of disarmament given the theme of his book, but that assumption is not entirely true. Through the mechanism of the trial, he rails against both the naiveté of the doves, and the hawks' disconnect from reality. As another reviewer so eloquently stated, he demolishes the generally accepted duality of nuclear politics, and demands the reader consider a third path of their own making. That's where George comes in; his real guilt is not in his action, but in his inaction.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Even Bad Morrow Is Great Literature April 24 2002
Format:Paperback
"This is the Way the World Ends" is one of James Morrow's early works, and when comparing it (somewhat unfairly) with more recent novels, like the Towing Jehovah trilogy, it's easy to see his progression as a writer, both in terms of ideas and style. While remaining firmly in the 'snooty intellectual' camp Morrow himself satirizes in his later books, "TITWTWE" is still a good read, and is a unique addition to the field of post-apocalyptic fiction.
Sandwiched between bookends of Nostradamus, the plot revolves around main character George Paxton, an everyman who carves tombstones for a living and worries about his family. When his neighbor invents something called a "scopas suit" that promises to be the device to change the nuclear balance of power, by allowing its wearer to survive and thrive after a nuclear exchange, George finds he cannot afford one - but makes a deal with a strange shopkeeper to get one on the cheap. On his way home, World War III erupts and George is caught almost at Ground Zero as he watches his family die from intense radiation poisoning.
That is just the setup for the meat of the book. George is rescued by a submarine and taken to Antarctica with five other survivors, to be put on trial for ending the human race. The judge, jury, and executioners? A race called "unadmitted humans," who came to be in the time-altering effects of the War. They bleed black blood and only live for a short time, but they nurse George to health so he can stand trial. Those familiar with "Blameless in Abaddon" will recognize the trial as a means for Morrow to tell his story, and the reader is intended to sympathize with those who created the nuclear conflict through lies like "mutual assured destruction," "deterrence," and so forth.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Sign Your Life Away Feb. 6 2002
Format:Paperback
"This Is the Way the World Ends" is a moving, surreal book dealing with the ultimate cost of World War Three - extinction. George Paxton is one of six survivors saved from the nuclear war. The evacuees are on a submarine heading for the Antarctic, where they will face trial by the "Unadmitted" - the would-have-been descendents of those killed by the holocaust. George had signed a sales contract for a survival suit that would have saved his four-year-old daughter. The contract indicated he would do nothing to stop any nuclear war that may take place in the near future.
A short time later George saw first-hand the results of a holocaust he did nothing to stop. The innocents mutilated by blast, fire and radiation; thousands of years of human progress literally gone within a flash. One of the unforeseen effects of the nuclear war is time distortion. While a day passes for George on the submarine, years elapse for the dwindling population trying to live in a post-holocaust world. A world devastated by the effects of nuclear winter, ultraviolet light, plague, mutation and sterility.
George and his fellow defendents then have to justify their motives for allowing the ultimate atrocity to occur. Guilty or not guilty?
There is a mountain of books out there dealing with the nuclear holocaust, but this novel still comes across as original, sad and witty. You do have to read the book with an open mind. It's like one of those weird French films. I can just imagine the French making a film of something like this, along the lines of "La Jetee" or "Le Dernier Combat". As a satire, this book is excellent. When you find out how the holocaust started, you won't know whether to laugh or cry.
It's ironic to think that our fates depend on the decisions we make.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring
This book proves that anyone can put words down on paper, attempt to sound sophisticated by writing gibberish, and have the American public sucked into reading it. Read more
Published on Sept. 27 2002 by Charles Ruble
3.0 out of 5 stars The Middle Lagged
This book had the most wonderful, heart-wrenching beginning and ending I've ever read. If the whole book had been able to keep up that level of emotion and deft, then this book... Read more
Published on Jan. 7 2002 by Daniel Llinas
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful and Moving
It is rare to find a book that is both intellectually and emotionally satisfying. James Morrow's vicious and honest indictment of human madness and the complicity of inaction... Read more
Published on Sept. 20 2001 by M. Schwarz
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Morrow's best work
While still very good in its own right, I count This Is the Way the World Ends as one of Morrow's weaker efforts. Read more
Published on June 20 2001 by Daniel Swensen
5.0 out of 5 stars Thermonuclear "Alice through the Looking Glass"
One of the most original, entertaining and well-crafted books I've ever read. Morrow's use of language is elegant, witty and fun, while at the same time chilling your soul with a... Read more
Published on March 20 2001 by David W. White
4.0 out of 5 stars Accept the premise and it just takes off ...
Not Morrow's best work--you need to read ONLY BEGOTTEN DAUGHTER or TOWING JEHOVAH for that--but a great read nonetheless. Read more
Published on June 19 2000 by Alison Hudson
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth thinking about
I disagree with this writer on a lot of things-most notably all his other books (especially The City of Truth, his book about how wonderful it is to be a liar). Read more
Published on April 26 2000 by NotATameLion
5.0 out of 5 stars The cautionary tale to end them all.
This book holds a special place in my heart, as it was the first James Morrow book I read. Others I have spoken to about Mr. Read more
Published on Aug. 10 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars Morrow constructs a wild end-of-world scenario
In the same vein as the black comedy "Dr. Strangelove", "This Is The Way The World Ends" is a true achievement in cautionary satire. Read more
Published on June 29 1998
4.0 out of 5 stars An insane romp through insane subject matter
Though the summary might suggest I did not enjoy this book, very little could be further from the truth. I thought this book was poignant and meaningful. Read more
Published on Nov. 8 1997 by "nallymac"
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