Sep 22, 2008

On the Beach by Nevil Shute

On the Beach

Of the other books I've read, this one came closest to reminding me of Level 7. We're dealing with that same sense of helpless waiting by the end of it, as the result of a nuclear war that pretty much happened by accident. Funny how that always seems to be the case - everyone wants to write about the Big One, but no one wants to lay claim to starting it.

On the Beach is, in the end, about human dignity and the choices we make in the face of our own deaths. Do you put in the garden, knowing you won't be there to enjoy the flowers? Do you adhere to wedding vows and military protocol? Do you go to work and make sure people get the medication they need right up until the end? Do you spend your last days fishing or racing or drinking? Do you do what you've always dreamed of doing, or do you stand with others to try and maintain the common sanity until the final bell?

There's precious little hope in this book. You will die, your children will die, your pets will die. Even if you and your countrymen had nothing to do with the nuclear war. And that's a warning to the world - you can not stay out of this. we all have a dog in this fight.

I go back on forth on how realistic I find this book. On the one hand, I think a lot of folks would keep going in to the office or to school or too the job site just because, well, what the hell else do you do? On the other hand, I think a lot of people would run wild in the streets, drinking and raping and looting shit they won't live long enough to enjoy. And although we want to think that one is better than the other - well, I sure want to think so - what's the damn difference? Either way, you're just as dead.

final thought: As I already admitted, this is the first book this year to honestly make me cry. God help us.


Mr Pineapples said...

Read it when I was a kid. Thought it was good then

downtown guy said...

Still good now.