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on 8 November 1997
Though the summary might suggest I did not enjoy this book, very little could be further from the truth. I thought this book was poignant and meaningful. Its subject-matter is a bit dated since the fall of the Soviet Union, but it is still a tale that packs a moral punch for today's society. As with most apocalyptic novels, the book seems to be a bit far-fetched in places. However, instead of trying to defend this as realism, Morrow goes overboard in his insanity for maximum potency. George Paxton, an average everyman, is thrown into a group of military personnel and technological geniuses responsible for the end of the world by signing a contract pledging his complicity in the nuclear arms race, and must answer for the crimes against humanity and against those who never had the chance to live. The references to Nostradamus as the narrator are lively and cleanse the literary palate quite effectively. I would not say that this is Morrow's best work to date, but perhaps the one of his works that deals most effectively with the frail yet arrogant human society.
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on 10 August 1999
This book holds a special place in my heart, as it was the first James Morrow book I read. Others I have spoken to about Mr. Morrow, and reviews I have read here and elsewhere, appear to confirm that those touched once by his magical imagination remain lifelong converts. This book manages in turns to entertain with humour whilst simultaneously highlighting the madness surrounding military strategic thinking at the height of the Cold War. It also contains some of the most poignant imagery I have encountered in literature, especially the hero's attempts to come to terms with the loss of his young daughter. A number of excellent cameo appearances by Nostradamus round off a book for all serious-thinking literature fans.
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VINE VOICEon 13 September 2013
What starts out as what you think as a typical post apocalyse novel rapidly goes off into some very strange territory with a trial for six people judged as responsible for global nuclear war - but it is done by the people who never got a chance to live a result
The arguments around why you would have nuclear weapons are well done , and quite familiar (MAD is a great acronym) and the grim inevitability is very well done - but for me it was just a little too 'out there'
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on 29 June 1998
In the same vein as the black comedy "Dr. Strangelove", "This Is The Way The World Ends" is a true achievement in cautionary satire. The men who helped launch the war and the civilian fighting for his life are held accountable for the world's destruction. Paxton's near-death and final reckoning with his family are among the most poignant work in any piece of fiction I've ever read.
To remember just how real the nuclear threat was not even so long ago, "This Is The Way The World Ends" is an absolute must-read.
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on 20 May 2015
"This is the Way the World Ends" is one of those ambiguous, "Is it sci-fi or something else?" kind of books. The book is essentially a philosophical and theological contemplation on responsibility: the responsibility of the citizen to stop an insane State; and the responsibility the current generation bears to both the all-but infinite hordes of the dead, and the actually-infinite yet-to-be-born.

What stops it from reading like a philosophical tract, however, is that it's essentially a twisted, satirical retelling of "Alice in Wonderland" (through the looking glass of Vonnegut, more than Swift), which I assume jumped off from the acronym for Mutually Assured Destruction, that ongoing insanity, giving rise to a "MAD Hatter".

The plot shifts between three main modes: periods of mawkish schmaltz; horrifyingly graphic depictions of a world burning down to its last embers; and a rip-roaring legal thriller against the backdrop of the trial of the millennium. Two things stop these shifts from being too jarring. Firstly, Morrow's lucid writing style, with its acerbic gallows humour and deft descriptive flourishes, is consistently entertaining. Particularly in the rose-tinted sections, which often get just a little too saccharine for my tastes, there is a soft but omnipresent satire, which simultaneously nods to the reader (well, I thought so anyway) and promises a return to the grisly horror promised by the title in due course, sort of: "Yes, it is over the top, isn't it? Oh well, there *must* be a happy ending to a book about the end of the world, *mustn't* there?" The writing is particularly taut in the extended trial sequence, which keeps the action from getting too bogged down. I read the latter 200-some pages of the book in one sitting, so it can't have been all that bad!

The second thing that stopped the tonal shifts from disorienting this reader was the excellent portrayal of George Paxton, a slightly dim but utterly benevolent and likeable character who acts as our POV into a world gone mad, and serves as one of the key messages of the text: we are all of us, no matter how far removed from the Powers That Be, responsible for the horrors done in our name. Paxton's relatability goes a bit beyond the 'everyman' he is often trumpeted as: he is utterly devoted to his wife and daughter, utterly driven by the belief that he can forestall the extinction of the human race. But whatever George's character archetype is, he is so well drawn, in his joy and his horror, his bemusement and his all-too-common sorrow, that you can't help but be sucked along through the kaleidoscopic fever-dream of the plot, drawn in even as you are amused by the conceit and horrified by the subject matter.

The book may be outdated (2015 is mentioned in the book as a distant, utopian future that could have been) but its message is not. People who dismiss the book's message forget that the civilised nations of the Earth can still blast it to a cinder on the say-so of a half-dozen suitably mad or bad people. I think that this is a fine book, completely unlike anything else for all that it wears its inspirations (Eliot, Carroll, Vonnegut, Swift) on its sleeve. I urge you to give it a go!
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on 8 December 1999
In order to distract a young boy whose mother is giving birth in the next room, Dr Michel de Nostradame, aka Nostradamus, performs a slideshow, (using a picture thrower recently invented by his good friend Leonardo) describing the end of the world. He admits that he wrote all his prophecies as obscurely as possible simply because he knows people in the future will are confused by them.
All this comes in the first few pages, the body of the book is concerned with the story he tells. It concerns an everyman figure who is worried that his daughter might not survive a nuclear war and is persuaded to sign a VERY unusual contract in order to purchase the only radiation suit in the world that would actually protect the wearer properly. After he has bought it for her, Morrow shows his penchant for irony by starting WW3 before he can get it home to her.
He spends most of the book finding out why the war happened and being put on trial for complicity in nuclear armageddon by the ghosts of those who were never born.
This was the first Morrow book I ever read, and it convinced me to pick up all his other books as soon as I see them. It is highly imaginative, exceedingly well written, and unlike much of his other work, not unkind to God.
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on 6 February 2014
Library copy first read aeons ago, recently re-Kindled. As good now as it was on first reading nearly thirty years ago. Even the Cold- War-boiling-over backdrop doesn't seem particularly dated - MAD still relevant even though the weapons and the enemies might have changed (not necessarily for the better). The main characters are portrayed in-depth (in more ways than one) with good word economy.For the most part, it's very well paced. Comes to more than one conclusion and the pace and story in the middle strand out a bit before coming back together. A very emotive story not for the terminally depressed, though the clever framework does allow for a teensy bit of hope to shine through.
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on 28 January 2016
A surreal work on the subject of nuclear policy, which somehow manages to create a very real interpersonal dynamic. At times charming, at others horrifying.
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on 13 December 2015
Another great book that truly deserves to be in s.f. masterworks series. Loved it. An excellent thought provoking original tale.
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on 30 December 2015
Started off quite promisingly with an interesting idea but got bogged down about 2/3 of the way through. I never finished it.
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