From Austen to zombies!
I've read a lot of post-apocalyptic fiction in the last few years. Usually zombies show up, or vampires, or else it's like Mad Max where bands of yahoos roam the wasted countryside, bringing destruction and disorder. Pat Frank's "Alas, Babylon" brings us a different scenario--for a dystopia, this is pretty utopian.
Randy Bragg is a lawyer in Fort Repose, Florida. He's kind of mooching along and drinking too much. Then the bombs fall. The world changes, and Randy changes with it as he finds himself responsible for leading a group of friends and family. Together, they work to survive in the Contaminated Zone. They're lucky--Fort Repose was too far away from the blast zones to get much radiation. With the help of a strong wind on The Day, as they call it, crops and water are spared. It's a matter of working with what they have left.
It's here that the book's original publication year (1959) becomes evident. Blacks and whites are suddenly desegregated--the significance of that may be a puzzle for younger readers, who may not know of awful stuff like "Colored" drinking fountains. They use the CONELRAD system for getting their information--horribly flawed, CONELRAD was replaced in 1963.
Perhaps strangest of all, people seem awfully polite. Fights are few, and the Fort Reposians immediately begin to help each other out in a town-picnic, chore-wheel kind of way. Drama is infrequent. Even the yahoos (who do eventually show up) don't use the f-word. I've heard of worse circumstances in a modern-day high school.
The main lessons of the book are still useful, however. One is, prepare for disaster--physically and mentally; don't expect your hair dryer to work! Another: just because the world changes, it doesn't mean you can't change yourself for the better. And, perhaps most important: stick together and show each other kindness; friends and family are all you really have, especially when the world is a mess.
I can imagine that this book was pretty scary for the Mad Men-era people who read it first. But as I listened to Will Patton's comfortable Carolina accent describing the fear and devastation, I realized why Pat Frank wrote this book--the Fort Repose survivors aren't scientists or world leaders. They're just regular small-town people, and they make it. You can, too.
Recommended for anyone interested in history--whether alternate or real.
The book was written in the late 1950's, so some of the things they refer to (like Western Union telegrams) seem knid of quaint, but it's a good story and keeps your interest.
Say something about yourself!
I really enjoyed the book set in central Florida after a Russian nuke attack. Miami, Tampa, Homestead, Orlando and Jacksonville are all gone and millions more are dead throughout the rest of the country. Is survival possible? The most seemingly, insignificant day-to-day uses such as toothpaste, salt, toiletries, aspirin, etc, become luxuries in this post nuclear war event. Money becomes worthless and the rich and poor are now equals. Could you handle it?
Say something about yourself!
First I am so impressed with the narration talent of Will Patton. I admire him as an actor but I was amazed at the art he puts into narrating this story. Thank you Mr. Patton! You made the story come to life for us. This book was required reading when I was in middle school (a very long time ago). The story is still very intriquing and keeps you hooked. It's hard to stop listening. My wife finished it in 2 days - because she couldn't turn it off. I was so disappointed when it was over. Excellent writing / excellent performance. Bravo Mr. Frank & Mr. Patton!
This book popped up on my radar from time to time but because of some of the descriptions it never made it into my cart until a reviewer I follow mentioned it, so, needing something to download I half-heartedly put it in my cart. I have never been so surprised by a story in all the audio books I have listened to, it is simply wonderful.
A lot, or overwhelmingly most, of the books that delve into this subject matter are not written all that well, some contain important messages, like One Second After, which it turns out the author of which was influenced by this book, but by and large the writing is not the strong point of the books in this category. This book is a game changer, it is written with brilliance - the dialog, the characters, the plot and circumstance encompassed within the covers of this book are excellent, it set a standard for literature that has not been met since in this genre, and I like and read a lot of stories in this genre. This is an exciting well laid out story with a message everyone should be exposed to, as even though it was written in the '50's it is still as relevant today as it was then, maybe even more so.
The narration is also excellent, it does not get better as a match and enhanced the experience I am sure.
Highly, Highly recommended. I should have listened to this book a long time ago.
This book is well written, well narrated and just very, very interesting. I've read other books on this general topic and some may be more specific in detail, pack more of an anti-nuke sermon, or describe a greater spectrum of the challenges to be faced in an event such as this, but this book was very satisfying and just a darned good read. I believe it's important to keep in mind the fact that the year is 1959 when judging the actions/reactions of the characters, and think the author did a great job with creating the feel of the times. I wish it had been longer, but a sequel would most likely be anticlimactic, and the ending leaves the reader with enough material to spend some idle hours imagining where the folks of this little Florida town will take their lives from here on. Highly recommended.
I only listened to this book because Will Patton was the narrator. I didn't know anything about the book or Pat Frank. Wow, what a great surprise. This book is perfect, just perfect. I've listened to it twice and recommended it to all my friends. You love and root for all the characters. And in the current world of zombie and end-of-the-world books being "in," Frank writes a believable story that captures the human side. All of the trendy stories out right now wish they could capture this story line as well as Frank did--he was ahead of his time.
Cross-genre tastes, but a soft spot for great Science Fiction and Fantasy
I didn't grow up in the duck and cover era, but I get the sense that Alas, Babylon is exactly the kind of "what if?" story that was lurking in the collective subconscious of Americans during the late 50's / early 60's.
Although it was written over 50 years ago and was, in fact, among the first post-apocalyptic/survivalist fiction novels, it never feels dated. One quickly forgets that we've moved from telegrams to text messages. Anyway, if we're imagining that society and infrastructure have collapsed, a post-apocalyptic 1959 probably wouldn't be that much different from a post-apocalyptic 2013.
This is a story about people in a small Floridian town struggling with the fallout (both figurative and literal) of a nuclear blitzkrieg that's wiped out most of America. The book's preface indicates that the idea for the story came from a conversation with an acquaintance who asked him what he though a sneak nuclear attack from "the Russkies" would look like. The author had worked as a government consultant and written on cold war-era military topics. He simply told the acquaintance that he imagined some 50-60 million American lives would be lost and left it at that. Alas, Babylon was his attempt to humanize what a loss of this magnitude would actually look like for those who survive. As a result, the story takes place on a smaller stage. It's about one man and his community trying to survive and cope with the loss of loved ones, the loss of infrastructure, and the loss of purpose they had in their former lives.
Will Patton is stellar as narrator, delivering a haunting performance. It's impossible to see the book without hearing him shout the novel's titular "Alas, Babylon!"
Highly recommended, and would make a great first listen for someone who's interested in post-apocalyptic fiction.
Maybe. The characters do begin to develop about midway through the text. The plot is a bit simple and the good versus evil characters seem simplistic, but it is great to lose yourself in.
I enjoyed the notion of how one survives after such an event and would have preferred more of the sociological elements of how people and society (community) would change. This was the most intriguing aspect for me.
It was fine.
I have to add my voice to the other positive reviews of this audiobook. I found it very engrossing. Considering how long ago it was written, it has really stood the test of time. One of my all time favourite post-apocalyptic novels.