Everyone in the northern hemisphere is believed to be dead, following WWIII and the thousands of nuclear bombs dropped on the USA, China, Russia, and many other countries. The radioactive cloud is slowly making its way south, killing those in its path. An American Navy Captain is docking his submarine in Melbourne, Australia, one of the most southern major cities in the world. Captain Towers and his men were not able to return home after their last excursion and they believe that their families are now all dead. The Australians ask them to take one more trip up to Seattle where they are getting radio signals from. Australian Peter Holmes goes with the team and watches them pull close to the shore and call out for survivors, never seeing anyone.
Those in Melbourne must come to grips with their impending death. It is only a few months until the radioactive cloud is expected. Some do every day lasts like planting a garden, some take up car racing, some try to fall in love.
I picked up this book because I very much enjoyed Shute's A Town Like Alice. This one has the same gentle and fluid writing style though it's quite a different subject matter. The denial by characters and then their slow or fast acceptance was rather interesting. It makes you wonder how you would come to grips that your time on earth is ending soon. It also makes you question how you would spend your remaining time. It was surprising that so many people were working up to almost the end. Why bother? Wouldn't you want to make the most of your time left?
This book was utterly depressing and at times I felt let down because just when you think something is going to happen, nothing really does and it's steady as she goes for the entire novel.
First Line: "Lieutenant-Commander Peter Holmes of the Royal Australian Navy woke soon after dawn."