Many classic science fiction novels are passed over or age out of relevance. Such is not the case with Nevil Shute’s On the Beach. The novel’s relevance and the fact that it was made into a now classic 1959 film with Ava Gardener, Gregory Peck, Anthony Perkins, and Fred Astaire (playing one of the few serious roles of his career) has helped its legacy.
The book takes place in Australia after WWIII has left every but Australia a nuclear wasteland. Our protagonist, Dwight Towers, is an American submarine captain who happened to be stationed in Australia while the rest of the world was destroyed “in a matter of minutes”. Although Australia is livable it is clear that in a matter of months the nuclear fallout will sweep down and kill the remainder of the world’s population. For all intents and purposed everyone in the world is dead, except for a mysterious Morse code signal coming in from Oregon.
Albeit a bleak concept, the book is fairly optimistic with characters living out their dreams and not dwelling on the fact they only have a few months to live. The book explores the different ways people find meaning in the last months of their lives. It is great and has something for both science fiction fans, and people looking for an uplifiting read about the end of the world.