On the Beach

Narrated by: James Smillie
Length: 8 hrs and 54 mins
Categories: Fiction, Contemporary
4 out of 5 stars (179 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Australia is one of the last places where life still exists after nuclear war starts in the Northern Hemisphere. A year on, an invisible cloak of radiation has spread almost completely around the world.

Darwin is a ghost town, and radiation levels at Ayres Rock are increasing. An American nuclear-powered submarine has found its way to Australia, where its captain has placed the boat under the command of the Australian Navy. Commander Dwight Towers and his Australian liaison officer are sent to the coast of North America to discover whether a stray radio signal originating from near Seattle is a sign of life.

©2009 The Trustees of the Estate of the late Nevil Shute Norway (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

What could have been.

An almost true story about the aftermath of the very brief WWIII (due to the inclusion of nukes). Considering how one man prevented this from happening during the Cuban Missile Crisis, this story is quite realistic. It lets you look into the psychology of people who have the luxury/curse of knowing the date of their death because of the upcoming nuclear fallout. It gives them fear while also letting them truly live. It's an interesting concept to observe as you wonder just how you would live if you knew when you were going to die. Nevil Shute pulls no punches as this is a very sad story overall.

Be warned however that unless you find the subject matter fascinating you may not greatly enjoy this. It can be a little depressing and there isn't much excitement in the story. It is more about observing how ordinary people in Australia live knowing they will soon be dead because of a war they did not want.

10 people found this helpful

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Dying With Dignity

Where does On the Beach rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

On the Beach is definitely the best apocalyptic audiobook I've listened to. It's a classic for a reason and Nevil Shute handled his subject matter masterfully.

Did the plot keep you on the edge of your seat? How?

How to answer this one. Not really 'edge of my seat' as I knew going into it what the outcome would be. I would say that the plot definitely kept me 100% engaged with the characters the entire time.

What does James Smillie bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

James Smillie did a brilliant job of bringing this classic to audio form. For me, one of the biggest compliments I can pay a reader is that they don't get in the way of the source material...and he definitely passes this test. I also believe that he does a great job of really bringing life into the different characters.

If you could rename On the Beach, what would you call it?

Just like my title, "Dying with Dignity." That said, I wouldn't want to rename the novel. On the Beach is a naval phrase for "out of commission", and I believe that covers things perfectly.

Any additional comments?

I went into this expecting all doom and gloom and, don't get me wrong, that is definitely always there. However, this isn't some sort of nihilistic view of the end of the world.

I grew to love the characters and the dignity with which they faced their certain outcome. Shute paints a picture of the end of the world really bringing out the best of the human race instead of a more Cormac McCarthy viewpoint (with all respect to both authors).

The thought of unavoidable death in the means of a radioactive cloud that is ruthlessly making its way south is horrific, but the characters Shute has created are heroes in my mind in the manner of how they individually deal with this fact.

This novel isn't for everyone and I would definitely stay away from this (as well as most apocalyptic novels) if you tend towards depression due to the last 3 chapters alone. However, if the subject matter interests you and if you are a fan of novels such as "Alas, Babylon", then I couldn't recommend this novel more. Again, it's a classic for a reason.

4 people found this helpful

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Nuclear War Classic

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.

4 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

well read classic novel of post nuclear apocalypse

I've had this book on my list to read for quite a long time. I was glad to finally find it on audible, and it didn't disappoint. If you're a fan of Hemingway's war novels, I'd say this would be a safe bet for you. Its a little sad and depressing given the bleak subject matter, but still a good and ultimately rewarding read.

My favorite part of the audiobook was the narrator who does a fantastic job. In particular, I loved his voice for Capt. Towers. Sounds like a weird mix of Christopher Walken and Dean Martin! I quite enjoyed it.

4 people found this helpful

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Classic apocalyptic

This is simply a classic and well written. Not as brutal as The Road, but still powerful as the people can do nothing but wait and find ways to fill their remaining days with distraction. I've read this and now listened to it a couple more times and it has aged well. One of the early apocalyptic novels, and one of the best. No zombies, no ridiculous shoot em up stuff, just realism.

2 people found this helpful

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Facing the end with poise

If you could sum up On the Beach in three words, what would they be?

Satisfying. Tragic. Resilient.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Peter Holmes. He seems to entertain no illusions about the future of the world, but doesn't seem to be despondent like Moira, or optimistic to the point of delusion like Dwight or Mary. His argument with his wife over the pills, the fruition of his frustration over her choice to be blissfully ignorant is compelling. He is a realist, but not without a sense of hope.

What do you think the narrator could have done better?

Nothing. All inflections and accents done sublimely.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

When the source of the radio transmissions was found, it was a particularly bleak moment, but it was the feeling I needed at that time.

1 person found this helpful

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Pretty Good Story

If you could sum up On the Beach in three words, what would they be?

Sad, Real, Brandy

How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

Maybe more details during the sub missions.

Which scene was your favorite?

I didn't really have a favorite.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

No. it just made me very sad.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

One of the Best Doomday Novels

Any thought of doomsday is not attractive. This novel portrays a possible scenario of the elimation of mankind based upon faulty information.

6 people found this helpful

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great

I think James Smillie did a fantastic job! Enjoyed his reading. Great variation and voice changes.

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This Review Needs a Title...

People of Australia are just waiting to die from the fallout of a massive world war. There is no hope of survival, they don't even try. This is a stirring, eerily believable short work by Nevil Shute. The main characters are a US submarine commander, Dwight Towers, and his counterpart, lt. commander Peter Holmes, an Australian. Towers has survived by virtue of being out to sea at the time of the war, Holmes is a married man with a wife and daughter. These men maintain their military personae to the end and are engaged in measuring radiation levels and other useless research, which they recognize as useless even as they carry their orders out.

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  • Mike
  • 05-08-15

Thought provoking

This was an excellent audiobook for walking with. I could hardly wait until the next installment on my daily walk. Story thought provoking and narrator did a sterling job. Very good buy.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Jockette61
  • 06-30-13

Essential listening

I read this book probably 35y ago - and every part of it has stayed with me. The audio version is thoroughly gripping - a quietly told tale of Armageddon. Whether reading the book or listening to it, it makes me sob every time.
As with other Shute books, yes it is very 'of its time' and could be seen as dated and too 'stiff upper lip-ish'. Don't let that put you off - this book will stay in your memory for a very long time.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-28-18

"On The Beach" is a moving novel, well narrated

"On The Beach" is both moving and memorable. It has some weaknesses but these do not ultimately detract from its power.

Set around 1960 (the near future when written), it follows the progress of a slow motion, world wide catastrophe through the story of a group of people living in and around Melbourne, Australia. In the year following a full scale nuclear war fought in the northern hemisphere, the lethal atmospheric radiation edges down the continent of Australia towards them.

It's an unusual novel even for the genre. There are elements of adventure; submarine missions and motor sports but they contain very little dramatic tension. Most of the novel is concerned with the surprisingly orderly demise of humanity, from a local and personal perspective.

Shute's style is often praised for its understatement. One could equally say that "On the Beach" is rather staid and parochial. There's droll small talk, pink gin and shorthand courses. The characters are quite well drawn but nonetheless they are all stock figures from a very anglo-saxon, middle class world. The novel is rather "square", even for its time.

The book has one major theme which is restated over and over again; the inevitability of a death which people face and at the same time cannot face. A kind of heartfelt but resigned refrain. One comes to like the people in the story and empathise with them as they find comfort in their hobbies and in each other.

The story moves quite evenly to its conclusion

Very good narration.





2 people found this helpful

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  • Jennifer
  • 05-16-19

Good and different

Took me a little while to get into but once I did it was very good.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-25-19

brilliant

1 of the best books of all time! the story is both uplifting, but tragic.

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • trigger
  • 11-20-18

Great and sad.

Great story, would people be so brave in the modern era? I don't think so.

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • mr
  • 06-21-13

solid post nuclear holocaust fiction

Would you consider the audio edition of On the Beach to be better than the print version?

Either version would have been good. Some people complained about the accents used. Personally I found them fine, only a few minor characters sounded off to my ear.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Moira. She's one of the central characters and was very engaging. Very well formed and completely believable. I felt more for her than any other character in the story.

Which scene did you most enjoy?

Kind of hard to' enjoy'a scene in a book like this. It's a pretty harrowing read.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Listened to it in public so had to stop myself crying, but it was struggle.

Any additional comments?

A lovely, sad, accurate, if a little dated tale. Well worth a listen.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Jenny
  • 06-09-10

A Beach like any other?

This was my first audible book, and I could not have chosen better.

The words were brought to life by the excellent narration, which was exactly the right timbre. The relationships were portrayed very well, and even the sad moments, and of course there are many, as is usual with Shute, were memorable.

I canot wait for more of this authors work to be available.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Simon Evers
  • 09-21-10

A book of its time

The book was published in 1957 when there was a very real threat of nuclear war: this explains in large part why it seems so innocent and world-weary. If you accept this and do not try to put it into a modern context, then the blandness of the story is understandable and (more to the point) it becomes well worth listening to because Shute is, above all, a masterly storyteller.

The characters are well-drawn if a little caricatured in their stiff upper lip simplicity. Nonetheless, it is impossible not to feel for them and to feel a sense of real sadness as the inevitability of the ending approaches.

It is well and sensitively read and, even if this sort of book is not to everybody's taste, it is well worth listening to.

Can we have more Shute, please?

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Russell
  • 05-19-11

Absolutely nothing happens

I’m a great fan of the post apocalyptic genre and this book was said to be one of the best but boy are they wrong. What a bore fest. It didn’t take long for me to dislike this book but I persevered as I was intrigued by the stray radio signal plot mentioned in the synopsis. Upon discovering the outcome to this subplot I felt like digging up Nevil Shute and strangling him. You keep expecting something to happen but it never does, it’s essentially a story about a group of people knowing the end is coming and waiting for it, you can’t take the characters seriously and when you finish the story you wonder why you bothered. I would recommend Alas Babylon instead.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Michael Thomson
  • 08-11-17

Topical yet again.

This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper. And all so very ordinary.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Jackson
  • 07-12-17

eerie and powerful

Really creates a stark, dark but very human experience. Moving and eerie, very well read.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-17-19

A truly moving story

A very well-paced book that articulates the poignancy of the human condition, in the face of imminent extinction. While a nuclear apocalypse sets the scene, it is but secondary to the touching narrative. Even still, the context certainly retains its relevance to our situation now, over 60 years on, in the tensions of the 21st century.

Sobering yet moving - would definitely recommend.

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  • Shannen Twine
  • 02-20-19

That’s how it will go down

The terrifying reality of the end of life. The horrific amplified by the mundane, the sadness of it. It probably will be like this, people going about their lives right up until the last.

Brilliant.