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This Is the Way the World Ends (S.F. MASTERWORKS) Paperback – 13 Jun 2013

4.0 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz (13 Jun. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 057508118X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575081185
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.4 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 155,622 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

James Morrow had published SF novels before, but This Is the Way the World Ends (1986) reached a new level of intensity, tackling World War III horrors with ultra-black magic realism plus a touch of Lewis Carroll. Like George Orwell's 1984, it still packs a grim punch although history took another course.

As the Cold War heats up, Americans frantically buy "scopas suits"(Self-COntained Post-Attack Survival) as protection against nukes. Tombstone engraver George Paxton can't afford one for his young daughter, until a strange old woman commissions epitaphs for her "parents" and pays by directing him to a magic shop where the scopas suit costs only his signature--acknowledging responsibility for any nuclear war. Soon we realise George's improvised epitaphs are for Eve, Adam and everyone:

She was better than she knew. He never found out what he was doing here.

Whimsy and social satire give way to nightmare as the missiles fall, scopas suits prove useless, and post-nuclear hell is painted in stomach-churning detail: flashburns, melted eyes, shattered people begging for death.

George, though, is rescued. As one of six who signed the McMurdo Sound Agreement, he must stand trial in Antarctica for complicity in murdering humanity. Prosecution, defenders, judges and police are the "unadmitted", unborn future generations now denied real life, whose sheer rage has won them temporary existence. Old disarmament and deterrence arguments, wittily rehashed in the Nuremberg-like court, seem all too different after the worst has happened. This queasy tragicomedy isn't easily forgotten. --David Langford --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

A lacerating Swiftian satire on nuclear war, like 1984 before it, THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS stands as a stark warning of the path history so easily might have taken - and still could ...

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A. J. Sudworth VINE VOICE on 13 Sept. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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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Format: Paperback
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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"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.
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Format: Paperback
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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By A Customer on 8 Dec. 1999
Format: Paperback
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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