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On the Beach is a book by Nevil Shute that explores the aftermath of a nuclear war on the northern hemisphere. The protagonists live in Southern Australia, but deadly radiation is heading that direction, though it isn't yet there. The path of the radiation can be tracked by radio stations going silent.
Much of the book is about southern Australians trying to live normally while waiting for the end, but there is another plot. There is a Morse-like radio signal coming all the way from Seattle, and a submarine goes on a mission to see if there are survivors there or if the radiation up there has died down any.
Tropes featured in the book or movie include:
- Beta Couple: Peter and Mary Holmes
- Better to Die Than Be Killed
- Cyanide Pill: The Australian government provides cyanide pills to its citizens so that they need not die slowly of radiation poisoning.
- Despair Event Horizon
- Downer Ending: Obviously.
- Ironic Nursery Tune: "Waltzing Matilda".
- Just Before the End: The northern hemisphere is toast; the book narrates the Australian population's attempts to live out their last days in joy.
- Lost in Transmission: In the book and in the first movie, the Australians hear garbled Morse Code radio messages from the United States (Seattle in the book, San Diego in the first movie), but they turn out to be caused by a broken window frame striking a telegraph key. In the second movie, the submarine crew receive a garbled message every day at roughly the same time. They're tracking it to see if it's from a group of survivors, but it turns out to be a solar-powered laptop transmitting on its own. Doubles as an Apocalyptic Log.
- Salt the Earth: The nuclear version.