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The Fate of the Earth Paperback – Oct 1988

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Paperback, Oct 1988
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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 244 pages
  • Publisher: Avon Books (October 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380613255
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380613250
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 10.7 x 17.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 136 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #768,609 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“This is a work of enormous force. . . . It compels us—and compel is the right word—to confront head-on the nuclear peril.”—New York Times Book Review

“As always, Schell is interesting and ingenious and sometimes moving.”—New Republic
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From the Inside Flap

Now combined in one volume, these two books helped focus national attention in the early 1980s on the movement for a nuclear freeze. The Fate of the Earth painted a chilling picture of the planet in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust, while The Abolition offered a proposal for full-scale nuclear disarmament. With the recent tensions in India and Pakistan, and concerns about nuclear proliferation around the globe, public attention is once again focused on the worldwide nuclear situation. The author is at the forefront of the discussion. In February 1998, his lengthy essay constituted the centerpiece of a special, widely distributed issue of The Nation dealing with the nuclear arms race. The relevance of his two books for today’s debates is undeniable, as many experts assert that the nuclear situation is more dangerous than ever.
Reviews of The Fate of the Earth
“This is a work of enormous force. There are moments when it seems to hurtle almost out of control, across an extraordinary range of fact and thought. But in the end, it accomplishes what no other work has managed to do in the years of the nuclear age. It compels us—and compel is the right word—to confront head on the nuclear peril.”
—New York Times Book Review
“There have been thousands of commentaries on what this new destructive power of man means; but my guess is that Schell’s book . . . will become the classic statement of the emerging consciousness.”
—Max Lerner, New Republic
Reviews of The Abolition
“As always, Schell is interesting and ingenious, eloquent and sometimes moving. He presents his case with clarity, and with candor about its possible shortcomings.”
—New Republic
“A reasoned argument. . . . As this work will do much to stimulate the ongoing nuclear debate, it is highly recommended.”
—Library Journal

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Schell takes the most compelling subject imaginable -- the very real possiblity of nuclear annihilation -- and puts it into gripping, passionate prose. Anyone with a concern for the human race should read Schell's account of the effect of nuclear weapons on nature and civilization. And anyone afraid of being humbled or disturbed needs Schell's reality check all the more.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa07ab750) out of 5 stars 12 reviews
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa0451780) out of 5 stars The World Reduced to Grass and Insects July 11 2001
By Gavin M Douglas - Published on
Format: Audio Cassette
This book attempts to conceptualize the idea of a full scale nuclear exchange between the cold war superpowers, since the idea itself is now "unthinkable". To explore this lack of understanding the author first explains in detail the immediate and long lasting effects of full scale nuclear war. Then, he comments on the situation, making a bid for sanity in an insane situation. The author believes that self-destruction and even planetary destruction "is not something that we will pose one day in the future... it is here now" (182). Schell believes that only a fundamental change in the belief system of the people of the entire planet can erase the danger currently hanging over the world; no amount of arms limitation or reduction will end the threat of total annihilation.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa0451858) out of 5 stars Required Reading -- for Anyone March 11 2004
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
Schell takes the most compelling subject imaginable -- the very real possiblity of nuclear annihilation -- and puts it into gripping, passionate prose. Anyone with a concern for the human race should read Schell's account of the effect of nuclear weapons on nature and civilization. And anyone afraid of being humbled or disturbed needs Schell's reality check all the more.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa0451ab0) out of 5 stars Death without end... Sept. 5 2011
By John P. Jones III - Published on
Format: Paperback
I first became aware of the work of Jonathan Schell through his two excellent books of reportage on the Vietnam War, entitled The Village of Ben Suc (A Vintage Book, V-431) and The Military Half: An Account of Destruction in Quang Ngai and Quang Tin Schell utilizes a most effective technique to convey the horror of war: a very flat affect, in the style of Joe Web's "Just the facts, mam..." He manages to capture the rationales of those who do the killing, and after 40 years, I recall, and even quote his descriptions of helicopter pilots who felt they had skills and techniques to differentiate "hard-core VC" from "innocent peasants" as they flew over, at 200 mph. Of the lakes of ink that have been spilled attempting to capture the experience of the Vietnam War, these two books will always remain in my top ten. Sadly, I note that my reviews at Amazon are the only ones posted on either book.

"In the Fate of the Earth," as the title suggests, Schell goes global. No longer is he addressing a dirty little war half way around the world, fought by a slender percentage of the American population, and viewed by the vast majority on their TV sets, over dinner. The war that Schell fears, a nuclear holocaust, is one that would come crashing into everyone's living room, TV or no. The book was written in the Cold War period, 1982, when the Soviet Union and the United States had thousands of nuclear armed missiles pointed at each other. The military doctrine of the time went by the suitable acronym, MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction.) The rationale, as it were, assumed the "players" were rational, and would never "push the button" since they would know it meant their own death as well.

Alamogordo, New Mexico is in the first sentence in Schell's book, and I live roughly half-way between nearby Trinity site, where the first atomic bomb was detonated, and Los Alamos, NM, where man's mind "created it," with a primary tool being mathematics, and the black board. Schell's first chapter is entitled "A Republic of Insects and Grass," suitable, since that is about all that would be left if the button was pressed. In his flat, scholarly style, without real histrionics, he describes what the world would look like if the holocaust came to pass. Not for the "fun read" crowd for sure. Regrettably, this possible outcome is considered all too infrequently. Fittingly, Schell quotes Kafka: "There is infinite hope, but not for us."

In his second chapter Schell moves deep into eschatology. Not only is all mankind wiped out, but "they can't get up when the film stops, and try again." Mankind, and its achievements on earth are gone forever, beyond recall. Schell does pose the arguments against a heightened concern, due to no second acts (p. 117), and then proceeds to critique them. To me, it is only so much "icing on the cake." I'm still in the school that if everyone is killed, that alone should be reason enough, and to devote a third of the book to more philosophical musings about the eternal emptiness is, well, redundant.

Schell presents a strong polemic against nuclear weapons, as well as a call for action. He concludes with: " I trust and believe, we will awaken to the truth of our peril, a truth as great as life itself, and, like a person who has swallowed a lethal poison but shakes off his stupor at the last moment and vomits the poison up, we will break through the layers of our denials, put aside our fainthearted excuses, and rise up to cleanse the earth of nuclear weapons."

Thirty years on, and his trust might be shaken. It hasn't happened. The Soviet Union has collapsed, which lessens the possibilities of the Big Holocaust, but on the other hand, there has been a proliferation of nuclear weapons, expanding the possibilities for a World War I beginning, in which a smaller country uses its weapons first, and a tit-for-tat "chain reaction" occurs, involving all the major powers. I see where Schell continues to try to focus our attention on the problem of extinction via nuclear weapons in a recent book entitled The Seventh Decade: The New Shape of Nuclear Danger (American Empire Project). Bravo for his efforts in fighting "the good fight." Though this book can be a bit redundant, perhaps it needs to be, because there is no real action yet that would justify Schell's "trust." 5-stars.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa04520f0) out of 5 stars Source document April 11 2014
By Jim F - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This weighty and closely reasoned book is considered to have changed history.

If you are interested in understanding how the humans manage to avoid blowing themselves up (so far) this is an important source document.

The NYT said in 1982 that is should be reviewed as an "event of profound historical moment rather than as a book".

If you are interested in how history can be changed by a book read this.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa045209c) out of 5 stars Great read, albeit depressing Aug. 4 2010
By S. Waiblinger - Published on
Verified Purchase
The plot summary for this book has already been explained by other reviewers, so I won't bother with that here. This book was required for a seminar I took in college about nuclear proliferation. Despite several presentations by professors studying nuclear proliferation, this book produced the most conversation (and an intelligent one, at that) surrounding the topic.

While a great read, this book is rather depressing. It paints a rather bleak picture about humanity and outlines how simple it would be for humanity to be annihilated. I knocked off one star not for this reason, but simply because the book was not mind-blowing - it was great, but not fantastic.

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