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4.1 out of 5 stars
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on June 6, 2016
Even though from the beginning of the story the reader knows what the final outcome will be it still manages to be an interesting story. However, I can't honestly say that I buy the concept that the inhabitants of Australia, knowing their outcome, would still be as stoic and continue to press on with their daily life as best they can. Electric trains keep their schedule people still go to work all the while knowing that the radiation is drifting to them and their fate is sealed. However it is made clear that in the novel that certain theories exist about radiation by some scientist that say the worst may be over and that does provide some hope to the citizens. However I did find most of the characters being a little too calm about their situation.

Of course that could be Shute's intention. He builds a lot of pathos with the characters because you get to know them. For example the Liaison Officer Holmes has recently had a baby and him his wife lament about the fact that the baby will never get a chance grow up and how unfair that is, especially since the war had nothing to do with them and was started a half a world away. They also decide to plant a garden knowing that they mostly likely not see the full result of their labours, but it something that they had wanted to do and its something they can do together.

There is a lot of intimate introspection like this where Shute focuses on the small stories where the reader is able to relate one to one with the characters. After all, the book begins a year after the war and all the life of the Northern hemisphere is wiped out by the radiation, that's hard concept to digest. By taking it down to the personal level with the characters and seeing it from their perspective makes the story more relatable and even sadder.

Its not all just about sad introspective stories there some good adventures like when the USS Scorpion is sent to look for life in various places and also to investigate a mysterious Morse code they are receiving from the states. Putting aside my reservations about some aspects of the novel I still found to be an interesting and hard to put down. I've also seen the movie based on the novel and that kind of added a visual dimension to this novel.

If you're interested in the On The beach movie it is reasonably close to the book but with the main characters of Commander Towers and Moira Davidson are being played by Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner, both of whom are somewhat older than the characters they are suppose to be playing. Same with Fred Astaire, his characters is significantly younger in the novel. If you can get passed that and some other minor plots lines that have been changed the pathos and inevitable sadness of their fate is still there.

Having written this novel in the late 50's its clear that Shute is making a bold statement about the futility of both the nuclear arms and the concept of a nuclear weapon as a deterrent. The novel demonstrates this by having the war started not by the major super powers by a smaller aggressive country. Looking at world events now On The Beach is probably more relevant today then it was back then.
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on August 18, 2015
This a book about the end of the world, but the end of the world takes several months to occur. The action takes place in slow motion and the language is exquisitely old fashioned. This is a futuristic apocalypse but described with words from the 50s and here lays the strength of the book: it is a mixture of anticipation and tradition. The way of life described in "On the beach" is deliciously 50s, with sex only alluded to, while self-restraint is everywhere, so is good consciouness. The book is full of clichés, but even the most trivial gesture is marked by doom, for everyone knows when he or she will die, and counting in months, then in weeks, then in days. This is literature at its best.
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on May 15, 2016
Great story but there are a ton of spelling errors due to this being an amazon printed book. There is even one on the back cover! Buy a proper edition if you're interested in this book. Amazon clearly hasn't perfected the art of scanning/printing their own books.
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on July 18, 2016
"On The Beach", by Nevil Shute is an amazing book. Unfortunately, this is not "On the Beach". This is an ABRIDGEMENT. The product that Amazon and CreateSpace Publishing is unprofessionally passing off as a classic novel by a great novelist is a version full of typos, grammatical, and spelling mistakes, not to mention that it has been cut to pieces and simplified.
I bought a copy of this book to replace a too well-worn one and was appalled at what I was sent. I ask myself, how many other abridgments of classic novels are being passed off as the real thing by Amazon and CreateSpace Publishing? I edited the typos in this bastardization of "On the Beach", and am sending it back to Amazon for a refund. I did not intend to buy an abridgement, and for anyone who is looking to read this classic novel, I urge you to buy it elsewhere. This version is not worth reading, let alone buying. ​
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on August 17, 2016
The story itself is compelling in its simplicity, stark in its possibilities, and the author is unique, but avoid this edition. The horrendous lack of editing, the constant typos and spelling and formatting errors throughout the book (including a back cover that reads "Neclear war has destroyed all life in the northern countries....", make it a tiresome and cumbersome read. Really awful to produce an edition like this!
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on July 15, 2004
A great, simple book very well written and poignant. What's interesting about it is that as we enter the story, the nuclear war that will eventually doom the characters in the story has already occurred and is over. They are simply awaiting the lethal radioactive cloud to move down to the southern hemisphere and begin to kill everyone off. The people carry on their daily lives as if nothing has happened. But we see in several key scenes early in the book how painfully, heartbreakingly aware they really are. And that's the key power to the story. These people know they're doomed but what choice do they have except to continue on with their lives. The most painful scene I found in the book was how the young couple with the baby begin to plan out their garden for the next year knowing full well that they are not going to be around to see it. They're fooling themselves, obviously, but how else to cope with the inevitable.
In the end, the book has the same effect as a movie called "Testament" with Jane Alexander. You'll be depressed and feeling a little scared and hopeless.
This is not light reading.
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on April 12, 2014
"On the Beach" is both a book and a movie from 1957 and 1959 respectively. A well crafted movie ideally should be complimentary to the original book, and Stanley Kramer's movie is certainly complimentary. Although this is a book review, it is appropriate in this case however, that a review of the book and the movie together makes any reflection on the ideas within the story richer.
The main story line of "On the Beach" is about the end of all life on earth as a result of radiation poisoning after a disastrous nuclear war in 1964. The obvious message is the folly of nations, armed with weapons that they dare not use and the consequences of using them. The movie pursues that populist angle with the final scene being of a large banner strung over a public square stating "There is still time...brother." The final message that there was still time to address the concerns over nuclear war in the 1950s and 60s is the one that initially received the most publicity.

But, "On the Beach" is more than the threat of nuclear weapons.The story takes place in Melbourne, Australia as a deadly radiation moves slowly, over many months, from the northern hemisphere to the southern, providing time for us to know the characters as they wrestle with the idea of their individual and collective demise. The underlying meanings of "On the Beach" however, are more subtle and timeless than the obvious folly of nuclear war. The title is a metaphor for the good memories the characters take away when reflecting on the final meaning of their lives. Towards the end of the movie there is a scene where one smiling young couple reflects over how they first met on the beach and the joys of love, marriage and parenthood that came from that meeting. Some character's lives are complete, others fall short of their dreams and aspirations, but life is not about quantity or if they had it all or not, it is making the best of the opportunities offered and not crying over the inevitable shortcomings. It is about accepting our lot in life with dignity and self-respect. The double-meaning of the title "On the Beach" is about having lived a good life.

The concerns over nuclear war have faded somewhat today, but "On the Beach" addresses how we meet the timeless issue of death. And that is the lesson of "On the Beach", as all people die. How we face death says something about how we faced life. Throughout the story people continue to go on with their lives and even towards the end, when all hope is lost, they are still tidying up their gardens and arranging things for after they are gone. It is about duty, of self-respect and doing the right thing. One of the main characters, Commander Dwight Towers, is given the stark choice of either spending his final moments comforting, and in the comfort of, the woman he has recently fallen in love with, or fulfilling his duty by scuttling his submarine at sea and ending his own life by going down with his ship. He chooses, in this case, duty. His final act represents how he lived his life and what he saw as the stronger truths to himself, service life, his crew and the family he left behind. He and others in the novel quietly strive to remain true to what was important in their life, even at the end.

That commitment to duty, of being true to how one lives and lived, is reflected in the dignity of how one dies. There is no right answer to the question of what constitutes a dignified death, as no one else truly shares that final moment. Nor, can anyone provide the answer for you. Ultimately, each character in both the book and the movie must find individual dignity on their own terms. Some meet it with their spouse, others alone, some quietly, some with understated defiance, but all manage it with dignity. There are differences in characters and even individual endings between the novel and the movie, but they are minor. In fact the differences in some endings are complimentary as they make the point that various endings are possible and all can still be dignified.

The argument above is not for, or against, the current controversy of assisted suicide to alleviate pain and suffering at the end of life. The message of "On the Beach" is "to thine own self, be true." Read the book, watch the movie. Better yet do both and reflect on the real meaning of a good life.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon September 17, 2010
The basic story is that Albania sends a plane with another country's markings to bomb the U.S. and we retaliate. However this is not a pacifist (don't build bombs book). This is not a sci-fi book. It could be a speculative fiction or just speculative.

The story begins after the war is completed and radiation is now covering the world. Australia is the last place to be covered. You read how different people are about to meat their end, some with hope, others with reckless abandon. Still there are those like the US sub commander Dwight Towers is loyal to his country to the end by not allowing U.S. property in the end to fall into the hands of the Aussies.

The book was written in the Cold War Era environment. So many people think that it is about countries and war; others think this story is some anti war story. The reality is that it is a study of people meeting a sure end and how they react. Other readers will balk at the actions of the people in this story; yet when they meet the same situation we will see how realistic the characters are. Still others will balk at the predictability of the characters. Still this is how many people get over a crisis by being predictable. It is these characteristics that make this novel timeless. Someone else must think so or they would not have made an updated version for our not too distant future.
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on January 21, 2000
Mr. Shute had a wonderful scenerio for the end of the world in his book. Now if only he had given the idea to an author who knew how to write. This novel moved excrusiatingly slow and his repetitve australian dialect added nothing to help; if not hurt it. Out of all the books I have read, I would have to say that this one ranks among the top 10 worst in language usauge and sentence structure.
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on July 7, 2004
I'd heard about this book for years; finally got 'round to reading it. A year or so after a nuclear war, fought entirely in the Northern Hemisphere, folks on the southeast coast of Australia await their fate: a radioactive wind carried around the earth.
Shute was not writing high art here: @times it sounds almost like reportage, but he manages to maintain a modicum of suspense throughout the novel by placing his characters in semi-routine situations that are always circumscribed by their finality: this is the last time we will ever...
A bland scientist cuts loose in an annual auto race; a couple spends their last hours together fishing in the mountains; another couple landscapes their yard until they're too weak to stand. The exchange betw. the submarine captain & the escaped crewman Swain is frighteningly unbearable in its blandness: "I know how you feel, sailor," sighs CDR Towers, as Swain chugs across the sub's path in a motor boat, just off the coast of his deserted hometown in Washington State.
On the Beach was a super-quick read: the messages were not hidden but revealed in conversations among the characters. If we had the chance, would we do anything differently? Has anybody recorded a history of this?
The book end with the inevitable, the deaths of all the characters, & it just doesn't matter whether people survive in Tasmania or New Zealand, for their deaths won't be long in coming.
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