Golden Age Sci-Fi 75 (49)
October 14, 2016
One in a series of 75 posts about the best science fiction novels published during the genre’s so-called Golden Age (from 1934–63, according to HILOBROW’s Josh Glenn’s periodization schema). For the complete Golden Age Sci-Fi 75 list, click here.
Nevil Shute’s On the Beach (1957).
In the near future of 1963, nuclear fallout from World War III has eradicated all human and animal life in the Northern Hemisphere, and air currents are steadily carrying the same fate to the Southern Hemisphere. Only South Africa, and the southern parts of South America and Australia are still habitable… our story takes place in Melbourne. One of the last US nuclear submarines, captained by Commander Dwight Towers, is preparing to head from Melbourne to America’s west coast — because an incomprehensible Morse code signal has been received. (Perhaps someone is still alive?) Towers is attracted to a young Australian woman, Moira Davidson, but remains loyal to his family back home… even though they must certainly be dead. Moira, meanwhile, copes by drinking heavily. Peter Holmes, an Australian scientist, cannot persuade his wife to believe in the impending disaster. Another member of the submarine crew, Osborne, spends all of his time driving a racecar. As the radiation reaches Melbourne, how will each character face his or her final moments?
Fun fact: Originally serialized in the London weekly periodical Sunday Graphic (April 1957). In 1959, the novel was adapted as a film starring Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, and Fred Astaire. The novel’s title refers to a beach in Eliot’s poem “The Hollow Men.”
GOLDEN AGE SCIENCE FICTION at HILOBROW: Golden Age Sci-Fi: 75 Best Novels of 1934–1963 | Robert Heinlein | Karel Capek | William Burroughs | E.E. “Doc” Smith | Clifford D. Simak | H.P. Lovecraft | Olaf Stapledon | Philip K. Dick | Jack Williamson | George Orwell | Boris Vian | Bernard Wolfe | J.G. Ballard | Jorge Luis Borges |Poul Anderson | Walter M. Miller, Jr. | Murray Leinster | Kurt Vonnegut | Stanislaw Lem | Alfred Bester | Isaac Asimov | Ray Bradbury | Madeleine L’Engle | Arthur C. Clarke | PLUS: Jack Kirby’s Golden Age and New Wave science fiction comics.
JOSH GLENN’S *BEST ADVENTURES* LISTS: BEST 250 ADVENTURES OF THE 20TH CENTURY | 100 BEST OUGHTS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST RADIUM AGE (PROTO-)SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TEENS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TWENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST THIRTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST GOLDEN AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FORTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FIFTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SIXTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST NEW WAVE SCI FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SEVENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST EIGHTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST DIAMOND AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST NINETIES ADVENTURES (in progress) | 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | NOTES ON 21st-CENTURY ADVENTURES.