When tombstone engraver George Paxman is offered a bargain, he doesn't hesitate. His beloved daughter gets an otherwise unaffordable survival suit to protect her from radioactive fall-out and all George has to do is sign a document admitting that, as a passive citizen who did nothing to stop it, he has a degree of guilt for any nuclear war that breaks out. George signs on the dotted line. And then the unthinkable happens.
The world and everyone in it (survival suit or not) is destroyed in a nuclear Armageddon - except for George and five others who must now face prosecution from the great mass of humanity who will now never be born. And George Paxman stands accused in the name of all the people who stood by and never raised a finger to stop the horror of nuclear war ...
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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 LangfordBook 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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Book Description Paperback. Book Condition: Very Good. The book has been read, but is in excellent condition. Pages are intact and not marred by notes or highlighting. The spine remains undamaged. Bookseller Inventory # GOR004477151
Book Description Legend, 1988. Large Paperback, Book Condition: Good Reading Copy, Medium Wear. Bookseller Inventory # 002205
Book Description Legend, 1987. Paperback. Book Condition: near very good trade paperback. 1st printing. A lacerating Swiftian satire on nuclear war. Bookseller Inventory # FD14.301