If you came to this book looking for Mad Max, dont bother. If you want to reinforce your concept that life on Earth will end with the explosion of one nuke, go elsewhere. But if youre interested in how the collapse of society would impact everyday people, this novel is for you. Pat Frank takes a fairly reasoned look at the affects of a nuclear war on small town America in the early to mid 1960s. To put it in a nutshell, everone in a small Florida town goes stir crazy for a few days after the bombs drop, looks around and sees they may survive if they act normal and build a new society and economy. How they get from point A to point B is the real joy of this book. The one legitimate flaw with this tome that others have pointed out is it is quite dated, especially when considering race relations. Also, gender issues are dealt with from an angle we would not be used to today. Most (but not all) of the black characters are somewhat ignorant of the larger world. The female characters are emotional and are prepared to collapse into crying fits over the smallest of quandaries. That said, Pat Frank does present these characters sympathetically and allows them to shine. In ways, this quirk enhances the book as the author's take on these matters is largely appropriate to the time frame. The next major point of criticism is that the book doesnt accurately reflect the truth about nuclear war as there are survivors. When considering this issue, one must remember the time frame of the story. The Soviets didnt have that many nukes in this time period and had very little capability of dropping them on America. If anything, Frank goes beyond what would be likely. Finally Ive noted lots of the poor ratings given to this book came from people who were forced to read it in grade school. This is certainly understandable. I would be inclined to give low ratings to books stuffed down my throat too! Still, I urge prospective buyers to take these critiques with a grain of salt.
Shute's "On the Beach" wasn't the only good WW-III yarn
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 17 years ago
This story deals with the Soviet nuclear attack on America that fortunately didn't happen. Where "On the Beach" was written from a British/ Australian perspective, this book is based in the American south, perhaps making Pat Frank the Pat Conroy of post-apocalyptic fiction. In 1960, during the height of the Cold War, Randy Bragg, descendant of an old Florida family, gets a heads-up from his career Air Force brother and prepares his family and his town for when "the button gets pushed". Younger readers who didn't live through the Cold War might find this story a bit campy, but as one of the kids taught by teachers to hide under my desk, I'm in no position to scoff. The book's short length (by today's standards) might make you take it for pulp fiction at first glance, but the fact that it's still in print four decades later is a testament to its quality. Rather than just crank this thing out, certain that no one would notice the picky details, Frank did his homework on this story. Even down to the dog tag on the collar of a wild stray German shepherd in one passage--as a one-time resident of Rochester NY the same as that dog, I can testify to the fact that the phone exchange on his tag really did exist back in those days...
An unforgettable book, for those of us who remember
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 18 years ago
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 occured. 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)
Warning about technology still makes this book relative.
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 20 years ago
The first time I read Alas, Babylon was almost thirty years ago as a high school student. As I reread it this summer, I was prepared to find it badly out-of-date. After all, it was written in a time when nuclear war was believed to be survivable and no one had heard of a nuclear winter. I was surprised to find just how well the story has held up over time. The theme that man will survive, come what may, is one of hope, and hope never loses its appeal in whatever form. However, its chilling warning about technology makes Alas, Babylon just as relevant today in our e-mail, Internet, computerized, digitalized world as when it was first written. And that warning is that the more we depend on technology, the more helpless we become without it.
An excellent apocalytic post-nuclear drama
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 21 years ago
ALAS, BABYLON - by Pat Frank (1959) In "Alas, Babylon," Pat frank has produced one of the best sketches of the apocalytic, post-nuclear survivalism which dominated the thoughts of many Americans at the time of the book's publication. Due to the age of the book (published 35 years ago) in 1959, the nuclear weaponry, war tactics and scenarios are notably dated but this does not detract from the book in any way. If anything, it enhances the reader's interest through examination of the mindset of the 1950's-1960's in relation to their fears of nuclear war. The novel is set in the small Central Florida town of Fort Response: a trite name, given that the town becomes, in a sense, a post-war fortress responding to the circumstances of the war. The characterization is particularly well done; the citizens of Fort Response are fascinating creatures portrayed in great detail and fashion.Told through the eyes and actions of Randy Bragg, he undergoes a transformation through the course of the novel from the town's respected, but borderline alcholic to the leader who saves the survivors of Fort Response through his sense of responsibility and organizational skills. Frank's device of focusing on the events of the nuclear war only as much as necessary to explain their effect on the citizenry of Fort Response greatly enhances the appeal of the story (unlike, for instance, an author like Tom Clancy). This character-driven approach allows the reader to feel and sympathize realistically and effectively with Randy and the small cadre of survivors. The ending of the novel is particularly clever and probably the most notable feature of the story. As a work of science fiction, it lacks any fictional science which would qualify it as a member of that genre. "Alas, Babylon is more properly in the category of "The Stand" by Stephen King; the two books share more than a few similarities. But it is the characters of "Alas Babylon" that make it a memorable classic and a novel well worth reading.
ThriftBooks sells millions of used books at the lowest everyday prices. We personally assess every book's quality and offer rare, out-of-print treasures. We deliver the joy of reading in 100% recyclable packaging with free standard shipping on US orders over $10. ThriftBooks.com. Read more. Spend less.