Alas, Babylon

by Pat Frank

  General / Favorable Reviews
  Critical Reviews
  An unforgettable book, for those of us who remember *****

This is a novel of a post-nuclear-holocaust world in the United States. At the time it was written (and I first read it), the scenario depicted in it was a real threat. People were building bomb shelters in their back yards. I considered it, but did not because I knew enough to realize that such measures were futile.

The protagonist, Randy Bragg, moves his family to the small Florida town of Fort Repose when he realizes that a nuclear attack is imminent. The book, though, is not primarily about the military aspects, or science, or fighting back. It is about survival of the people after the attack has destroyed the infrastructure of society and anarchy reigns, and how they cope with it. Contrary to the opinion of many, it is not science fiction. It is an attempt to warn people who lived at the time it was written, and such an attack was a real possibility, what problems they would face if and when it occurred. The characters are well-drawn, the situations realistic and well-thought-out, and the subject was of immediate interest--in fact, its possibility haunted us all, in those days.

In point of fact, it is the kind of situation that could, even today, follow any major natural disaster or terrorist act which would disrupt the normal functions of government and the operations of public utilities, resulting in anarchy and the "law of the jungle."

When one reads the criticism of today's high school child, that it was a "boring" story, it demonstrates how far we have come since those days of the Cuban missile crisis, for example, when I worked fifty miles from home, and worried when I went to work that I might be separated from my family, including my wife and five young children, by a nuclear strike and not see them again. In those days, it was a real possibility, likely to occur at any moment, and we all knew it.

It was not boring. It was a daily, living nightmare.

This book made the same impact on me, when I first read it, as Nevil Shute's book, On the Beach. At the time I read them, I prayed that they did not reflect the future, but thought they might.

It was a time I'm glad we've passed through, and that modern children cannot remember or sympathize with. But a time we should not forget.

This is easily a five-star book, but it clearly does not have the impact today that it had when it was written.

Joseph Pierre, USN (Ret)


  Character-driven survival story ***

I like this book, but not for the reasons I expected. First, unlike most post-nuclear books, this is mostly a strict survival story with few nuclear elements. In fact, the characters only encounter radiation in one small subplot. Therefore, the nuclear war is merely a backdrop.

The book tells a survival story where a small town is cut off from the rest of the world (which mostly no longer exists) and must make do with existing skills and resources. The central hero, Randy, is appealing and believable.

The characters are the main reason to like this story. None of the main characters "turn bad" post-apocalypse style, so the tension is mostly generated by sympathizing with these people and their trials. A simple story, but certainly worth reading.

Dan Rahmel






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