On the Beach (as a novel in 1957, the movie in 1959), by Nevil Shute
Nevil Shute’s On the Beach is credited as an example of fiction that changed the way we think about a major world problem or issue, in this case nuclear war and nuclear winter. It is one among many pulp fiction novels that predicted doom and apocalypse, but the book also impacted world leaders and intellectuals more than most other novels do. One still reads about On the Beach in modern news articles as climate activist Dan Bloom says he's looking for the ON THE BEACH of climate change fiction aka cli-fi and asks: “what novel or movie on climate change will wake people up like On the Beach did for nuclear war and nuclear winter?”
The novel was published in 1957 and takes place in Melbourne, Australia, following the days of the last lives people on Earth. The characters highly suspect that radiation is drifting down to them after having wiped out the rest of the world. And they are right. Their attempts to live their last days as normally as possible conflict with the horrifying knowledge that they are at the End. The New York Times said of the novel in 1957, “the most haunting evocation we have of a world dying of radiation after an atomic war.”
The phrase “On the Beach” is a Royal Navy term signifying “retired from service”. Does this mean the submarine in the story at the end was on its way to being "retired from service"?
Nevil Shute's real name was Nevil Shute Norway. He was born in the UK and emigrated to Australia later in life.
The novel also begins with lines from Walt Whitman’s poem “On the Beach at Night“.
The poem is ominous in nature but is simply about a man teaching his daughter about the planet Jupiter, which they can see at night.
However, due to clouds soon blocking the view, the young girl thinks that the planet has gone away forever and becomes sad. But of course Jupiter is still really there. Whitman seemed content to only raise the question of a dying planet.