On the Beach, written by Nevil Shute and published in 1957 is a somber post apocalyptic novel that follows survivors in Australia after a nuclear war and subsequent radioactive fallout has contaminated most of the world.
Much of the story revolves around an American nuclear submarine, the last of the US Navy, docked in Melbourne and under the command of Captain Dwight Towers. The post apocalyptic world has been contaminated with high levels of radiation stemming from the use of cobalt bombs by the Russian and Chinese military forces.
This story is character driven, focusing on the struggle for people to maintain some sense of purpose in spite of their doom. It was slightly disappointing that most of the people in On the Beach basically give up and passively accept death. Why didn’t they attempt to create a shelter in which some people could survive until the levels of radioactivity decreased? (scientists mention several times that the radioactive cobalt has a 5-10 year half-life)
Released at the height of the Cold War, On the Beach has elements of a warning or cautionary tale and is clearly written with some political intentions in mind. While On the Beach is a well written novel that explores some important ideas worthy of consideration, it is slow-paced and uneventful at times. If you are looking for excitement and entertainment you may want to look at some other reading options.