This Is the Way the World Ends (S.F. MASTERWORKS) Paperback – 13 Jun 2013
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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.
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 ...See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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'
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.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
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.Published 5 months ago by Sean
Started off quite promisingly with an interesting idea but got bogged down about 2/3 of the way through. I never finished it.Published 6 months ago by Richard Alibon
Another great book that truly deserves to be in s.f. masterworks series. Loved it. An excellent thought provoking original tale.Published 7 months ago by goldcrest
An engaging tale focusing on the consequences of owning nuclear weapons. The first half follows George, a simple but likable man who only wants to protect his daughter from an... Read morePublished 24 months ago by Lianne Smith
I said I love it because the friend I bought it for really enjoyed it so give it a try!Published on 24 Jun. 2014 by 1234
I thought this had quite a lot of promise, but it peters out badly towards the end. It seemed incoherent and the story just failed to move me. Read morePublished on 12 Jun. 2014 by J. S. Davies
Library copy first read aeons ago, recently re-Kindled. As good now as it was on first reading nearly thirty years ago. Read morePublished on 6 Feb. 2014 by j.
I expected this to be good but what an absolute waste of time I read the first book, no chance of me reading book two. Read morePublished on 11 Jan. 2014 by Kindle Customer
I'm sure this book is deep and meaningful for some people but for myself i just didn't understand it. Read morePublished on 31 Oct. 2013 by Mr Bug