Alas, Babylon

By: Pat Frank
Narrated by: Will Patton
Length: 11 hrs and 11 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (10,923 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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.

Critic Reviews

  • Audie Award Winner, Fiction, 2012
"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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Timeless

I am amazed that it took so long for me to find this book-thank you Audible! This is a true classic and not dated in the way that I feared. There are no explicit sex scenes or graphic violence and the characters know nothing of the modern technology that we take for granted. What we do get is an expertly crafted and narrated story of survival. The characters are well drawn and engaging. The plot is realistic in a way that many more recently written and acclaimed books fail to achieve.
I thoroughly enjoyed it-a new favorite!

23 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

One apocalypse--hold the 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.

60 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A griping read!

I grabbed this paperback out of my mother's bookshelf as a bored teenager on summer vacation and I've dragged it around with me for over 30 years! Though the characters are a bit simplistic, the story is riveting.

This story explores what happens when civilization as we know it ceases to exist. How do people survive when there are no safety nets? Decade’s pass and technology marches on, however the story of mankind’s struggle to survive remains pertinent. I actually used this book as a basis for a Sociology paper in college.

The narrator is very good and the story is every bit as good today as it was in 1959.

75 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Brilliant, classic, timely, characters to love

I hesitated to get this one because it was written in 1959...feared it might be dated, etc. NOT SO! It is amazingly timely and unlike many post-apocyliptic novels it leaves you with a feeling of hope and the desire to do all you can to save our planet and civilization at its best. Hauntingly beautiful descriptions and perfect plot design; I hated to stop the audio and finished it in one weekend. All Americans should know this novel!

61 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Outstanding story of post-apocalyse.

As a fan of post-apocalyptic stories and films, especially those created in the 1950s and 60s, this wonderful novel has long been one of my favorites. Although the story is set in the late 50s, one may view it as alternate history. What if on an alternate timeline, a silly mistake triggered a nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia at the height of the Cold War? God knows we actually came very close to it a couple of times in the 60s. This excellent novel tells the tale of a small group of survivors trying to survive in rural Central Florida after the bombs fall. It is exciting, uplifting, and highly recommended. Actor Will Patton, who did a superb job on Kerouac's "The Road," is equally brilliant in this reading. He reads the story with warmth and conviction. An all-around marvelous audiobook, and I commend Audible for producing it.

43 people found this helpful

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Excellent audiobook

It's difficult to believe this book was first published in 1959. The storyline is extremely well thought out, the characters are well defined and very believable.
The book is full of historically accurate facts that take the reader back to the days of what an earlier generation knew as "Mutually Assured Destruction." This audiobook is well worth the investment of your time and money.

89 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent 5-star listen

I read this story when it was first released and have replaced my copy several times. It has maintained it's relevancy over the years well. With Will Patton reading, it comes alive. Well worth the money and a continual pleasure in any form.

67 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Amazingly contemporary

This great work of science fiction was written in a different time and world situation, but it feels as fresh as if it was just created. So much of what happens after the nuclear disaster in the book is just what probably would happen now. I have enjoyed every word. Will Patton is the perfect narrator.

71 people found this helpful

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an old favorite now more relevant

I read this book as a youth. It captured my imagination. However now it captures it again. is it possible it is even more relevant?

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Great characters

I really enjoyed this book. I was completely caught up in the lives of the characters after the first few pages. Doesn't really seem dated at all. The narrator was perfect for the time, place and people. Definitely worth a listen.

35 people found this helpful

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  • Martin
  • 11-25-13

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.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Mrs
  • 08-02-14

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.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Tony Barker
  • 03-07-14

Brilliant and believable

Where does Alas, Babylon rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

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.

What other book might you compare Alas, Babylon to, and why?

One second after

Have you listened to any of Will Patton’s other performances? How does this one compare?

No but will look for others

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Small town America overcomes man made disaster

Any additional comments?

Excellent read

3 people found this helpful

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  • Elizabeth
  • 01-05-14

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.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Margaret
  • 02-12-15

Great!

Great story and narration. Hearing parts of it gave me chills. An enjoyable and engrossing listen. I would recommend it.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Dominic
  • 01-08-15

Fantastic book

50 years old but still could be written yesterday
Give it a go. Post apocalyptic without the modern twist. Yes

2 people found this helpful

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  • Clem
  • 07-27-13

Amazing Journey into Armageddon

If you could sum up Alas, Babylon in three words, what would they be?

Couldn't stop listening!

Which character – as performed by Will Patton – was your favourite?

The central character 'Randy' was very interesting. A reluctant hero.

Any additional comments?

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.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Matt Watson-Power
  • 05-03-13

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.

2 people found this helpful

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  • alexander
  • 01-19-15

Thought provoking

Would you consider the audio edition of Alas, Babylon to be better than the print version?

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.

What did you like best about this story?

The well crafted characters. I could almost hear the river passing through the story.

Have you listened to any of Will Patton’s other performances? How does this one compare?

Not knowingly, but he was good. One was not conscious of his breathing, his tempo was steady all the way through.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Nature or Nurture. Discover the true American hero.

Any additional comments?

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.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Keith Mason
  • 05-22-14

The aftermath of 1950's nuclear war

Would you consider the audio edition of Alas, Babylon to be better than the print version?

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.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Jay Taylor
  • 03-03-20

Blueprint for all good Apocalypse stories

After listening to this book it left me wanting more but as I thought about it this book is almost a blueprint for any media with the same theme. Now that I've concluded with that I feel I've experienced the premier nuclear apocalypse story less of an apocalypse more of a disaster that is overcome by the strong willed that remain

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  • Frost
  • 12-12-19

A painfully slow start followed by a breakaway to glory

A really interesting read. This early exploration into post-nuclear survival was enlightening and well-written. Unfortunately, the first 1.5 hours or so were painfully slow. I wanted to give the book 2 or 3 stars by the time the bombs actually hit. But then it really picked up the pace and went to interesting places.

The narrator does a good job impersonating different voices. I commend him for that. It kept the narration from being stale. However, the way he would say “Alas.......... Bab-lon” the same way every time was grating. He would also rush two sentences together for nearly every single character, which seems organic at first but quickly grew annoying and demonstrated the fact the lines were being read, not spoken. Otherwise he does a good job and I’d be keen to hear him again with more practice.

A worthwhile book!

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  • Shannen Twine
  • 02-27-19

Best book I’ve ever read

I can’t remember ever being so completely engaged in a story! Wow! I won’t bother reviewing- BUY THIS BOOK IMMEDIATELY

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  • LC
  • 05-27-17

Eerily close to home, even today

The United States unintentionally sparks a nuclear war with USSR when a US fighter plane accidentally strikes a base in Syria, resulting in USSR's nuclear retaliation.

Pat Frank might have written this novel in 1959 but swap USSR for Russia and it's a synopsis that could just as easily be drawn from a future headline.

This was the first time I'd read/ listened to Alas, Babylon and I really enjoyed it - particularly the insight it gave me into 1950s nuclear age. Gender roles are strong - men are brave and protective, women stand by their men and children as nurturers and carers and even little boys carry stiff upper lips.

But how interesting it is to see how society breaks down and yet humanity persists in the face of a nuclear war. Now I've read it, I can see where so many other post-apocalyptic novels, films and games have rightfully drawn their inspiration.

A great read - highly recommended.