After a nuclear World War III has destroyed most of the globe, the few remaining survivors in southern Australia await the radioactive cloud that is heading their way and bringing certain death to everyone in its path. Among them is an American submarine captain struggling to resist the knowledge that his wife and children in the United States must be dead. Then a faint Morse code signal is picked up, transmitting from somewhere near Seattle, and Captain Towers must lead his submarine crew on a bleak tour of the ruined world in a desperate search for signs of life.
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I don’t know where to start. I’ve had a look at some other reviews online and it seems people either love this book or find it dismally boring. I have my tent pitched firmly in the camp of the former.
Sobering. Yes, after years of reading I have found a book that shows me the true meaning of that word. The characters are very human and the small glimpses of hope even when facing the inevitability of death is lovely and horrible all at the same time. In a way that feels immediate and real, all of the characters deal with the situation in their own way and some arguably better than others. There are characters in denial, characters who have turned to drink or to religion, and there are characters who are pragmatic and accepting. Afterall, there is nothing to be done. The finality doesn’t stop them though. The characters keep searching for answers right up until the very end.
The mood is sombre and eerie and all the more so whenever you’re reminded that the entire population of the Northern Hemisphere has gone silent. Worse still are the constant updates on the progress of the radiation sickness as it makes it’s way South. And for someone who grew up in Melbourne and can picture all the places Shute describes in the novel, all of this feels very, very real. I read the book in one sitting and I can’t imagine doing otherwise. Definitely one of my top reads of the year.