This true modern masterpiece is built around the two fateful words that make up the title and herald the end - “Alas, Babylon.” When a nuclear holocaust ravages the United States, a thousand years of civilization are stripped away overnight, and tens of millions of people are killed instantly.
But for one small town in Florida, miraculously spared, the struggle is just beginning, as men and women of all backgrounds join together to confront the darkness. Will Patton's narration paints this classic tale as an ominous picture of the terrible possibilites of the nuclear age.
©1959 Harry Hart Frank (P)2010 Audible, Inc.
"An enthralling and vivid story of the follies and failures of people, their courage and cruelty, their treachery and triumphs. Mr. Frank is a magnificent writer." (Chicago Sunday Tribune)
"A warm, continuously interesting story of what can happen to a group of ordinary people in a perilous situation." (New York Herald Tribune)
“Will Patton is a calm and steady narrator whose quiet intensity wraps around this post-apocalyptic saga...He reflects the tones of deference of women to men, nonwhites to whites, and children to adults. In a conversational tone, he quietly brings the characters and their relationships to life.” (AudioFile)
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
When Randy Bragg, an aimless Korean war vet who has developed a taste for bourbon in his coffee while living in his hometown, Fort Repose, Florida, gets a telegram from his older brother Mark, a Colonel for Strategic Air Command, that closes with ???Alas, Babylon,??? Randy realizes that hydrogen bombs are about to start flying between the USSR and the USA. The rest of Pat Frank???s novel, Alas, Babylon (1959), depicts how Randy and his Fort Repose neighbors survive after ???the Day??? on which the bombs fell. Frank convincingly imagines the geo-politics that could lead to such a war, as well as the social and inter-personal dynamics of survival that would likely follow it.
Frank???s novel is a post-holocaust communal Robinsoniad, with key things (like an uncontaminated river, an ancestor???s journal, an unlimited source of salt, and even a well-equipped attic) in retrospect a little too convenient for ???island??? Fort Repose. But I let that pass because I respect and care so much for Frank???s characters as they are pushed to their limits to find ways to survive physically and emotionally, and the main thrust of his novel is to test his characters to see which ones will survive with humanity intact and which will not.
I like Frank???s attempt at a progressive vision of race (for its time and southern setting), but George Stewart???s earlier novel Earth Abides (1949) may be more radical in that respect. In general, Earth Abides is more philosophical, cyclical, beautiful, and moving than Alas, Babylon, which is more political, tactical, exciting, and martial. Alas, Babylon is an anti-nuclear war novel that nevertheless valorizes the heroic American male soldier/leader.
Will Patton???s reading of the novel is fine; his voice is appropriately manly and dry with undercurrents of emotion that bring the story to life.
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?
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.
A little out of date as the story was written in 1959. Still, it likely portrayed a realistic picture of a US A-bombed by the Russians.
An old broad that enjoys books of all types. Would rather read than write reviews though. I know what I like, and won't be bothered by crap.
Will Patton's voice makes this the only way to go for this book. He has the right nuances and cadences to each of the wonderful characters in this book of a Southern Apocalypse. I don't believe just reading the book would do it justice.
Earth Abides comes to mind because I listened to that a few years ago. They both tell the stories of survivors of an earth ending event. I liked Alas, Babylon better, only because I thought it was a little more reasonable than Earth Abides, but EA does take place over decades while Alas, Babylon is only a few months. Both are wonderful stories!
Will Patton is one of my favorite narrators, I find myself searching for more books he has done. I think my next one of his will be Deliverance. He never lets you down.
I think when Helen makes a pass at Randy and he doesn't know how to handle it, but Lib does and explains to him what is going on in Helen's head. I liked the way it was handled with dignity and strength.
This story was written in 1959 so the story could come off as a little dated, but then I look at the world today with North Korea and Iran desperately trying to show themselves as nuclear powers and I think how pertinent this story still is. Take the time to listen to this gem.
I'd recommend this book to a friend of either sex. The story enrobes you and carries you inside its pocket. You can't get out, even after you've stopped listening for the day, and then it will stay with you long after the story ends.
I've listened to many audiobbooks narrated by Will Patton - if he's reading, I just know I'll enjoy the book. But this time...he simply nails it, and it sucks you in - it feels like he IS the character he's speaking for. Even the women in the story sound realistic and don't distract. That's a very hard thing to pull off, in my experience with audiobooks.
The story is such a personal one to any of us growing up in the 50's and 60's - Nuclear War's entry into our innocent minds and lives, and the scare that just the possibility of a nuclear bomb's potential put into all of us. It took me right back to that time; worried about who would launch the first bombs and where they would land...the devastation they could cause, the millions of people they could kill - and the impact something like this would have on all of us. Would we even survive it?
Please listen to this - you will not regret it. This one's the total package - beautiful, thoughtful writing, believable characters and story development - and an unforgettable performance by Will Patton. It just doesn't get any better.
Two great passions - dogs and books! Sci-fi/fantasy novels are my go-to favorites, but I love good writing across all genres.
OK, I know I'm swimming upstream here and with the zillion rave reviews this book has and being on the "Audible Essentials List", it will not make much difference, but this book aggravated me enough to write my negative review. So, if anyone does read this, let me say first that I am not surprised that this was a huge hit when it was published in 1959, but if you are not male and not white, you may find this a book somewhat less than an essential read. If you are a white guy, maybe it won't bug you as much but you will find a more interesting read in many of the more modern day dystopian/holocaust novels. Like many of the science fiction books of the 50's, Alas Babylon reflects that time's negatively stereotypic view of women and non-white people, but I could say in defense of the book that unlike many other sci-fi novels of the time Alas Babylon is set in the 50's so it does reflect the view of the time it is set. (EX: "The more he learned about women the more he needed to learn except he had learned this, they needed a man around.") Some of those 50's books are set centuries from now and still seem to think no woman or person of color would ever hold a position of authority or aspire to. I would also say in Alas Babylon's defense there was an interesting surprise in that the acting President, the only surviving cabinet secretary, is a woman. This in 1959 when only two women had ever made it to Cabinet Secretary.
However, setting the book for the same time as it was written is its biggest problem for people reading it much later and why I do not believe this is a classic. As I listened in 2013, I know that there was not a nuclear war in the 50's so the book becomes just a cautionary tale at best and much of the suspense factor is gone. So, I tried to listen just for the story, but the story kind of stinks. There is not one believable character in this. There are few shades of gray, but most of the characters are over the top noble, or over the top conniving. The women do not ring true at all. The best female character - the only one with some sense and backbone and education - lost my allegiance when she worries about getting pregnant without being married because she wants to be sure her child has its daddy's last name, but she DOESN'T seem the slightest bit concerned about HAVING a child in a nuclear fallout zone!! REALLY, REALLY??? Fort Repose is close enough to the target zones to see the mushroom clouds, and these people scrounge up all kinds of things to survive but apparently no one raided the drug store for condoms to prevent 3 headed babies I guess. Some of the men (the doctor and the admiral particularly) lapse into long-winded sermons about biology, politics, history, philosophy at the drop of a hat. Oh sure, I know some long-winded, preachy people (I can even be one), but I don't know many people who stand around and LISTEN to that. Those speeches just felt like the author preaching at me.
Will Patton didn't take anything away from the story, but I didn't think his narration added much to it either. He does some accents reasonably well, but the African American dialog even if true to the time made me wince. And, he seemed to think just talking softly would convey a woman's voice when in fact it just sounds like a man talking softly.
So, if Alas Babylon fails to knock your socks off, you can't say I didn't warn ya'. And, Audible, I think you need to re-think the "essential-ness" of this one.
Business owner , philanthropist.
I liked this book so much that I bought a whole lot of other books about the end of the world. Unfortunately they were not as good. Then I listened to this again and loved it all over again.
Happily surprised to find this book. Never heard of it, but took a chance because I enjoy this genre.
I just finished listening to it, and it kept my attention throughout. I was surprised to discover that this book was written in 1959, and did not even think of it until after I was done. There were a few dated racial comments, but the worst was not that bad given the context. Solid 4 stars for conception and execution of the story, as well as plausibility.
Will Patton was the Narrator - AKA- the 'bad guy' from the movie The Postman. I had to overcome my preconception of him from this role, but otherwise thought he did a fine job narrating, good use of character voices for each person, and his inflection and dialects kept my interest.
It's shocking and amazing that such a carefully woven tale filled with nuanced predtictions of a post-apocalypse world could have been created so early in the cold war, by a single author with no specific training in the field. Give and take a few technical changes, this story could easily be told today. It's very entertaining, credible, and the narrator does a fantastic job in bringing the characters to life. The survivalist technocrat will enjoy the clever predictions and modeling of a town cut off, while everyone else will enjoy and relate to the very human tale of a population under extreme stress. Highly recommended. I've listened to the whole thing three times now. Bravo to the Audible team for finding this gem.
"Amazing, gripping, so real"
From the outset I was gripped by this book. A fascinating 'what if' with some very plausible answers. Great story - ingenuity, terror, war, tech - and it's an incredible snapshot of the late 1950s. Well worth a listen - I don't normal listen to American accents, but this guy has a great voice.
"loving this so far"
I am really enjoying this one...the voices are great, very atmospheric...
Loving it to the point that I am buying extra food, more flour..more canned goods!...feckin' apocalyptic novels, they always haunt my nightmares
"Perfect for Doomsday Preppers"
I'm not sure how I came to find this book as I discovered, after I listened to it, that it had been written in the 50's. The story is the world after USA and Soviet Union have attacked each other with nuclear warheads. The perspective is a small town Florida lawyer who gets 24 hours avance warning from his brother of the impending attacks. Our hero then prepares himself and works with his immediate neighbours to survive the chaos. Written with believable gusto, the story takes the characters through 18 months or so, during which time, they learn to survive and adjust to a new world. I was gripped by the narrative and wanted to find out what happens to them. Some of the incidental characters are rather one-dimensional - the venal banker, the superficial socialite mother, but you feel empathy for others who have to adapt. I also loved Will Patton's voice. He captures the gritty American determination to survive - he has the voice of a rather world weary cowboy.
"Excellent post-apocalyptic book"
Amazing to think this was written back in 1959, a year after I was born. It's very modern in its tone and style, and I loved it, and the narrator. A great read, a great writer, a very poetic style, this is a classic apparently and I can understand why...
"good story. but of its time"
like a 1950s version of One Second After. both good books. 4+ stars. both of their time. this from the missile gap times. but it all kicked off in the meddle east, and that part could have been written yesterday.
"An old book that has really stood the test of time"
I do like a post apocalyptic drama, and this one was unusual in the amount of time spent setting up the community before the apocalypse. As a result, you had a much better feel for how this town collapsed and then rebuilt itself in the aftermath. Entirely believable, and the fact that it was written more than 50 years ago doesn't really affect the essential human drama.
You have to give it a bit of leeway, in that it was written so long ago, and there are aspects of racism and sexism that simply aren't acceptable today.
"feels unfinished "
I enjoyed the book overall, but it feels unfinished. there were lots of interesting points but often some actions or stories were dealt with very quickly when they could have been explored further. it's like the opposite of Stephen King.
"It's the end of the world as we know it..."
Hands down, it was Will Patton's superb narration. I can't imagine a more perfect choice to read this book.
Payton Bragg. A sweet little girl with the grit to do anything to help her family. She takes a lickin' but keeps on kickin'.
'Welcome to the apocalypse... It's not as bad as you thought it might be, apparently.'
I really enjoyed this book. Set in a 1950s American South just as a nuclear war begins, this story focuses on the Bragg family as they pick themselves up and try to repair their lives and their community after The Day (when the bombs drop). My only problem with the book is that, well... is it just me or would a post-nuclear holocaust world not be significantly worse than the world portrayed in this book? I think the author's intention was to show the horrors of nuclear war but the message he actually ends up getting across seems to be: Nuclear war? OK, it's BAD, but you'll be all right if you just show a little gumption and pull together'.
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