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)
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.
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 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.
Retired CFO, Army wife, Mom of five, Grandma of six, two sons who served in combat, love to read books that reflect my values and faith, love mysteries, historical, military stories, and books that don't waste my time . . . if it doesn't have an ending that was worth the wait, I'm not a happy camper.
Just finished this audio book, which by the way was written when I was only four years old . . . but for a few things, like the prices of things, etc., it could have been written today . . . America thinks the Federal Reserve is infallible . . . nothing is as sure as death and taxes . . . well, if there were no IRS, no central government, no grocery stores, no televisions or dvd players, no drive thrus . . .how WOULD we be able to survive? I grew up in the time when the threat of nuclear war was a real and present danger . . . when fall out shelters existed, and we had drills in school. The cold war was real, the USSR was our enemy. After high school, I became an army wife. We were stationed in Europe when the Berlin wall fell, and the cold war ended. Two sons have served in Iraq, a very different kind of war, yet the similarities of America's political correctness, complacency, and underestimation of the enemy are still here . . . and greater. We are a nation even more spoiled by conveniences than in 1959, yet the author had an uncanny grasp of human nature, both the tendency for evil, as well as good that exists, whether it is current day or centuries ago. The book will cause one to think, to ponder what is truly valuable, and for that alone it is priceless.
The plot itself is pretty fast-paced and an enjoyable, light-weight and upbeat look at the aftermath of a nuclear war. I think if you're a white male born before 1955, you'd get more enjoyment out of this. One problem is that the ending has an unrealistic patriotic Cold War vibe that could only have been written pre-Vietnam War. The other main problem is the portrayal of blacks and women. The book was probably enlightened from a white male point of view in 1959 -- even liberal -- but now, it's sexist and racist, albeit in a low-key way. Woman are put on a condescending pedestal. Sure they're strong-willed but they are not allowed to do dangerous things and are forced to stay behind to cook and clean and care for children while men do the real work. The black characters are honest and hard-working, good with mechanical things and manual labor, but treated as foot soldiers ordered around by the wise white men. They are followers absolutely and could never be considered leaders. I liked Will Patton as a narrator, even though he flubs some of his performance, accidentally reading narrative description in the voice of a character and stumbling in his flow now and then. But his voice is laid-back and has a nice drawl that fits the main character. I enjoyed the listen but if I knew what it was going to be like, I wouldn't buy it again.
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.
First I must say that if I could rate the Narration alone I would give it 5+ stars. His skills are the best part of the audio production. I wish I could rate this a 4.5 stars because while it was a very good listen that kept me wanting to hear more, it dragged a tiny bit at times.. I will only give a 5 out of 5 when I am foced to stop listening because I MUST get some sleep. So this is well worth the credit - Very well written characters and plot, it is a little slow at times.
This book is a reflection of the time in which it was written, particularly when it comes to how women and minority people are depicted. This limited my enjoyment of it, but I did enjoy following the author's imagining of what it would be like for the survivors of a nuclear holocaust. Overall I would recommend it.
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!
"Brilliant and believable"
This ranks very highly. I came across this book as a recommendation having read One Second After and I was not disappointed. It was intelligent and thought provoking without being over sensationalized. It depicts ordinary people who have experienced an extraordinary event.
One second after
No but will look for others
Small town America overcomes man made disaster
"Classic... Nuclear War 1950s setting."
Very enjoyable because it is set and was written in 1950s America, rather than coming across as dated it was more like historical fiction which I enjoyed a lot. For a post apocalyptic story it is not at all as grim and gory as a modern book would be - cannibalism, slavery and the other usual depravity and gore that you expect in a more modern post apocalypse story! These things are maybe hinted at rather than really appearing in the story, apart from the odd bad guy most people are pretty decent and most behave in a relatively civilised manner. It is strangely almost a positive story, I wouldn't be too concerned about letting a younger reader / listener have this book. I have read reviews elsewhere that described it as having some racist and sexist elements to it - which there of course are going to be, it is set in Florida and was written in 1950s America! It is not as realistic in many as a more modern book would be, but I personally forgive that as it was a very enjoyable listen with interesting characters and settings. If you can credit the book for being written in more innocent times in terms of what would be acceptable amounts of horror and gore (there really is none) and enjoy it as an innocent predecessor of the modern post apocalypse book, it is very well worth a listen and very enjoyable. - I love the game Fallout 3 which has loads of 1950s styling and a post nuclear war setting, so this may have clouded my judgement a bit but I enjoyed the listen a lot.
"Amazing Journey into Armageddon"
Couldn't stop listening!
The central character 'Randy' was very interesting. A reluctant hero.
This was just a great story. I was surprised that it was written way back in the 50's. It is so relevant to today. Great characters. Great story. Definately a must listen audio book. Will Patton speaks with a very understated passion that really sucks you into this world.
Great story and narration. Hearing parts of it gave me chills. An enjoyable and engrossing listen. I would recommend it.
Yes, thanks mainly to the narrator. I found that I was hungry for the the next chapter to be read to me while I was driving, in fact I was sitting in my car listening as the story had captivated me. A paperback would still be in one of my jacket pockets in a wardrobe somewhere.
The well crafted characters. I could almost hear the river passing through the story.
Not knowingly, but he was good. One was not conscious of his breathing, his tempo was steady all the way through.
Nature or Nurture. Discover the true American hero.
It is a pity that the author has not written anything else, Pat Frank really knows how to breath life into his well defined characters.
50 years old but still could be written yesterday
Give it a go. Post apocalyptic without the modern twist. Yes
"stands the test of time"
I grew up in the shadow of the A bomb and the threat of the nuclear apocalypse but was too young to read this book when it first came out. I have been immersed in the story and the characters. Though I hope that the chances of all out nuclear war are now a thing of the past, the chance of a post apocalyptic world resulting from climate change remain very real and so the subject matter remains relevant for our current time. Well worth a read.
"The aftermath of 1950's nuclear war"
I think so often I find the reader can detract from an otherwise good story but Will Patton's voice brings the characters to life in a tone that fits right in with the setting of the story. Its measured pace lets the story roll out in front of you and is a real pleasure to listen to.
"A compelling listening experience"
Once again I am glad I didn't read any reviews or even the publisher's summary before embarking on Alas, Babylon. I find it so much more enjoyable not having any clue as to how the story might unfold, and how bleak or optimistic its outlook will be.
I'd class this as a quick and easy listen. As an inadvertent follow-on from Neville Shute's On the Beach, it reinforced the risk of our utter dependency on electricity and on our supply-chain for food and fuel. It is the first fiction that also made me consider the value of military training and experience.
For me, one of the main weaknesses of the book was the characterisation. The characters each fall so clearly into the Good Guy or Bad Guy camp. Perhaps because of this, or maybe just from the writing style, I felt no empathy for any of the people. They were interesting to me, definitely, but I never felt an emotional bond with any of them.
That said, the audiobook made compelling listening and the tale gives a great sense of the values and concerns of the late 1950s in the USA. The narration enhanced the book for me; it seemed just right. Overall, I would definitely say I enjoyed Alas, Babylon and despite its weaknesses I would recommend it to others.
"Alas, there isn't more like it."
It's a great listen, of course it's easier when it's a great story. A good yarn, well written, well narrated and quite frankly, all too real in it's fictional deliberations. The way things are heating up in the Middle East, perhaps we should read this more than once!
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