“Doctor Michel de Nostredame, who could see the future, sat in his secret study, looking at how the world would end.
“The end of the world was spread across the prophet’s writing desk—one hundred images of destruction, each painted on a piece of glass no larger than a Tarot card. With catlike caution he dealt out the brittle masterpieces, putting them in dramatic arrangements. Which should come first? he wondered. The iron whales? The ramparts of flame? The great self-propelled spears?
“By late afternoon the paintings were properly sequenced, and Nostradamus made ready to compose the hundred commentaries that would accompany them. He opened the window, siphoned sweet air through his nostrils.
“Tulip gardens. Sun-buttered fields of clover. Crisp, white cottages. A finch chirped amid the nectar-gorged blossoms of a cherry tree. Now, thought the prophet, if only a cat would come along and devour the finch alive, I could rise to the task at hand.
“He consulted the finch’s future. No cats. The bird would die of old age.”
Arthur C. Clarke has read this book twice. In the year he wrote the blurb for my cover saying the same, it was the only book he read twice. Morrow’s 1986 post-apocalyptic novel has been called “The Gulliver’s Travels of the nuclear age, the Alice in Wonderland of the arms race,” and though I hadn’t heard of it until I found it on a thrift store shelf in southern America, it is an apocalypse that I am excited to read (right after I read A Gift Upon the Shore, which got second place in the ‘what should nikki read next?’ vote).
How does the opener work? Quite well. We have a seer looking into the future, much as our author is going to do with this book. We have images of destruction juxstaposed with images of a beautiful summer day filled with blossoms and bird song. We have potential foreshadowing of an interesting theme: the wish for a dramatic juxstaposed with the banal, though generally more positive, reality of a death by old age. Based on the opener alone, I am ready to bump this book up on my to-read list.
Have you ever read This Is the Way the World Ends? Do you recommend it? Would you read it based on its opener?