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Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank

Alas, Babylon (1959)

by Pat Frank

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4,0491252,029 (4)1 / 222
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.
  1. 120
    On the Beach by Nevil Shute (lisanicholas)
    lisanicholas: On the Beach is another novel that picks up just after a worldwide nuclear war in the 1960s -- this time, in Australia, as the survivors await the arrival of the radioactive cloud that will doom them. Bleaker in outlook than Alas, Babylon, Shute's novel focuses on how individuals deal with the almost certainty of their own imminent annhilation.… (more)
  2. 83
    The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (Ruth72)
  3. 61
    The Road by Cormac McCarthy (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  4. 62
    Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven (saltmanz)
  5. 20
    Lights Out by David Crawford (ajwseven)
  6. 20
    The Postman by David Brin (sturlington)
    sturlington: The Postman was influenced by Alas, Babylon.
  7. 10
    Earth Abides by George R. Stewart (sturlington)
    sturlington: These are two classic early post-apocalyptic novels.
  8. 10
    Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (benjclark)
  9. 00
    Arslan, or A Wind from Bukhara by M. J. Engh (infiniteletters)
  10. 00
    Swan Song by Robert McCammon (sturlington)
  11. 00
    Forbidden Area by Pat Frank (BeckyJG)
  12. 00
    Level 7 by Mordecai Roshwald (HenriMoreaux)
  13. 01
    The Dog Stars by Peter Heller (benjclark)

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English (124)  Polish (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (126)
Showing 1-5 of 124 (next | show all)
Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition!

Honestly, I'm of two minds. For a nuclear holocaust dystopia from 1959, it's probably top notch. A lot of fans attest to it. It's also full of good characters and solid 1959 survivability thought. No complaints about the science, either. In fact, the whole situation and character feel is quite a bit like the Walking Dead. Solid.

So what's my complaint?

This outcome could only have happened in 1959 and it was egregiously optimistic to boot. The nuclear stockpiles and deployment might not have made it to total annihilation levels by then so lobbing all the arsenal might not have been an all or nothing thing at this point in history. Plus there was still a lot of the previous generation (read pre-electricity) tools available to peeps at this time, even if they were getting rather old.

That, and it was mild as hell compared to most dystopian books I've read or even movies. Again. 1959. And the totally unbelievable optimistic ending? Yeah. 1959.

But that's just it. It's hard to activate my magical belief hoodie after having lived through so many dystopians and expecting something even as grand as Fallout.

At the very LEAST, however, it shows me how much society has changed since then. 60 years. Now, all we do is expect unending rapes and mass murder when the world ends. This book tells the opposite and optimistic story. Despite the mass death. *shakes head*

Props for its time, though! Want some Nuka Cola? ( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |

Pat Frank wrote Alas, Babylon, which is a frighteningly credible and exciting novel about nuclear holocaust. Even though it happened in 1960. It is the first novel from Frank that I've read, thus far.

'Published at the height of the Cold War, amid fears of nuclear annihilation, Frank's enduring novel remains a classic reminder of what preoccupied millions during the 1950's and 1960's. It was a time of escalating proliferation of nuclear weapons and a militaristic, jingoistic one-upmanship confrontation between the U.S. and the Union of Soviet socialist republics. The immediate future and the consequences of political and technological failure are constant themes in Frank's works, from what I understand.
Alas, Babylon, published in 1959, confirmed that Frank is not only serious, but also very knowledgable about the effects of nuclear warfare and that the public was as concerned as he was. This novel, in which the attack was not averted (as it is in other novels dealing with the same subject), is among a select few that speculate seriously about how the survivors of nuclear holocaust could survive and begin rebuilding, from the foundations up, a civil society.
After writing this novel, Frank received an American Heritage Foundation Award, and he was also consultant to the National Aeronautics and Space Council. Frank later went on to write 'How to Survive the H-bomb, and why', which is very straightforward advice story on post-holocaust living.'

I loved this novel. I sincerely wish my school had us read this novel instead of trying to slog through the other morbidly dark authors like Poe, in A. P. English. The characters are believable, the plot moves along very briskly, and the tone never becomes fatalistic, or morose. The narrator of the audiobook, Will Patton of Audible Studios, is nigh-on perfect, for this novel. I enjoyed every minute of it, and I wish there were at least 250 more pages. Especially on what happened next, or what others went through at this time. If you like novels set in this time period, please give this one a try. You won't be disappointed. ( )
  stephanie_M | Apr 30, 2020 |
For a book written in the 50's I liked this much more than I thought I would. After "The Day", the aftermath of a nuclear conflict this follows an interesting group of survivors in their day to day efforts to carry on. I was taken in by the details and the characters. Makes me want to store a little food and water. Good thing my neighbors in Utah are fully stocked. ( )
  Jeanene_KP | Apr 6, 2020 |
I have had this in mass market paperback on my TBR for quite a while but when I found audio narrated by Will Patton I went for it. I really enjoyed this and felt that it has aged well. With only a few minor changes it could be any time. It was well written and had well drawn characters.
I do have to say that not long ago I read 'One Second After' and after reading 'Alas' found out that was a blatant rip off of this book.
It is just coincidental timing I read both these books close to and during a worldwide crisis. Makes you think about how it's possible for the thin veneer of society and civilization to quickly fail and /or be discarded. The world could be quite different after this pandemic.
Anyway, I digress. I highly recommend this novel and plan to seek out more by this author. ( )
  jldarden | Apr 1, 2020 |
Pat Frank’s Alas, Babylon was published in 1959, and I first read it as a sixteen-year-old in 1964. This is the first time I’ve read it since, but that initial reading impressed me so much that I still have that particular paperback copy of Alas, Babylon on my shelves. To understand why this one made such an impact on me, it helps to remember just how deeply implanted into the minds all of us growing up in the fifties and sixties
the relative likelihood of a nuclear holocaust was. We were part of that whole “duck and cover” drill process that was going on in schools all across the country in those days. We took it seriously because the adults all around us took it seriously.

So along comes Pat Frank in 1959 with a 315-page novel about what would happen if Russia started firing missiles at the United States and Western Europe in an attempt to win a nuclear war via a devastating first strike that would cost millions of lives in a matter of hours – and suddenly, our worst fears were easier than ever to picture in our minds. It all seemed very real to someone my age because, after all, the Soviet Union was already winning the space race, and catching up seemed to be beyond the capacity of the U.S. space program.

But, as it turns out, Alas, Babylon is not at all the pessimistic and terrifying book it might have been. Yes, millions do die, whole cities are wiped out in minutes, and millions more will die in the months following “The Day,” but those in little Fort Repose, Florida, are not prepared to give up even then. Randy Bragg is not going to let them. Mark Bragg, Randy’s brother, is an officer in SAC Intelligence, and Mark manages both to evacuate his wife and children from Omaha to Florida and to give Randy a 24-hour heads-up about the impending doomsday. That little head start would make a difference.

The core of Alas, Babylon is, as would be expected, the community’s common effort to survive the aftermath of being completely cut off from the rest of civilization. Suddenly responsible for their own food supply, safety, health care, and the like, the people of Fort Repose soon learn that they will have to depend upon each other if any of them are to survive the long term – and that thieves will be subject to the harshest penalty there is. Fans of dystopian novels will find much here to please them. It can be argued in fact, that books like Alas, Babylon, Nevil Shute’s On the Beach, Eugene Burdick’s Fail Safe, and Peter George’s Red Alert created the pattern for most every dystopian novel that would follow.

Pat Frank’s message, however, is a bit different than the message sent by most dystopian novels. Frank does not shy away from showing the reader exactly what the carelessness and stupidity of the political class might cost the world one day. He doesn’t linger in the gore, but he does paint a clear enough picture of what would be lost – perhaps lost forever. Frank focuses more on how much we are going to miss all the things we destroy, and just how suddenly thousands of years of human advancement could be made meaningless. Pat Frank, though, has one more message for his readers, a message of hope - hope that those who survive will be able to claw back as much of the past as is humanly possible, and that civilization will survive the worst.

Bottom Line: I’ve seen a few reviews of Alas, Babylon claiming that the novel is so racist and misogynistic that it is barely readable. All I can say to those reviewers is that they just don’t get it. The novel was written in 1958 or 1959, a period during which racism was more obvious than it is today. Pat Frank makes that racism part of his story, particularly the way that everyday conversation often included casual racial and religious slurs, even to using the infamous “N-word” on numerous occasions in the book. Frank’s main characters, Randy Bragg and his family, though, are anything but racist in attitude and action. The author uses the Bragg family to make his points about racism and racists; he doesn’t preach tolerance, he shows it in action, and he makes sure that one of the key families in Fort Repose’s survival is a black family, a family that is totally accepted in the new world in which they find themselves. Read between the lines, people. ( )
  SamSattler | Jan 26, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 124 (next | show all)
Doom-minded and Cassandra-speaking, this author, who touched off the play in Mr. Adam in comic vein, and continued his warnings in Forbidden Area (1956) here looks at an all-out bombing that freezes and contaminates most of the United States. What happens to Fort Repose in central Florida- which escapes the worst -- becomes an account of survival when, slowly learning that all props are out from under, some few citizens work out a make-do, or die, program. Heading up a colony that manages to exist is Randolph Bragg, whose Air Force brother gives him the word and the little chance to prepare for the disaster of Russian attack, and, with his brother's wife and children, some neighbors -- white and black -- he finds out many ways to circumvent encroaching death. Death through lack of medicine, electricity, communications, through the threats of epidemic, mob attack, highway marauding, decline of authority and the sudden regression that results from the loss of ""civilization"". Bragg's efforts -- and those of his group -- pull them through when yesterday's history becomes archaic and changed rules must govern changed conditions. When hope comes -- of rescue and victory -- does it matter -- to those who have survived? Contemporary Robinson-Crusoeing.
added by Lemeritus | editKirkus Reviews (Mar 20, 1959)

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Frank, PatAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Patton, WillNarratormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brin, DavidForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Frank, PatForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I have an acquaintance, a retired manufacturer, a practical man, who has recently become worried about international tensions, international missiles, H-bombs, and such.
In Fort Repose, a river town in Central Florida, it was said that sending a message by Western Union was the same as broadcasting it over the combined networks.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
The story of a group of people who rely on their own courage and ingenuity to survive in a small Florida town that escaped nuclear bombing.
Haiku summary
The nukes fall on Florida
Soon after so does technology
And the honor of men

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