The world is in turmoil following a nuclear war in the Northern Hemisphere, the air is polluted with radioactive fallout killing anyone it touches within a matter of days. As the earth's air currents slowly force the radiation South, the novel concentrates on how southern Australia reacts to their impending death, focusing mainly on 5 individuals. The book details Shute's impression of how he feels society would react when faced with its final destruction.
Shute imagines a world of stiff upper lipped inhabitants, where people go about their daily business until the very end. Goods are still paid for, jobs are still kept, and crime is at a minimum. Personally I would foresee a very different set of circumstances, but I am not writing the book, so I will go along with the author.
The main characters are at heart all good, wholesome people. Some have accepted their death and plan to enjoy what time they have left, others need a little help via a brandy bottle. But all show an implacable respect of duty, both to any career or morals they have chose to live with.
At first I found the attitudes of the protagonists hard to accept and at times a touch wooden, but then you have to place yourself in the context of when the book was written. Times were very different back then and the world really was in fear of a nuclear war.
Other reviewers have given the book a low mark due to scientific inaccuracies, but I find this ridiculous. Would you only give Lord of the Rings one star because there are no Hobbits at the bottom of your garden?
Anyway, this has to be one if the most thought provoking pieces of literature that I have ever read. It still lingers with me a number of days later, and I often find myself thinking what would I do? How would I react to seeing my family die in front of me?
Do I agree with all the author portrays? Not at all.
Am I glad I read this book? Definitely
Would I recommend it? In an instant.