Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Alas, Babylon!By Pat Frank, 1959, from the library
You should knowI love good science fiction, and this is apparently considered among the best science fiction out there.
So?In this story, the United States is hit by multiple nuclear attacks, and a small town in Florida narrowly misses being hit by fallout. Randy Bragg, the protagonist, takes it on himself to protect and care for his family, his neighbors, and soon, the town.
In addition to being a compelling story (I read most of it in a single night), it is one that offers much to think about. Much of the story is a product of its time, the late fifties, and it spins out what would be considered most valuable as time goes by. No doubt you've thought to stock up on canned goods and bottled water in case of an emergency, but I for one never thought of salt, flour, yeast, or needles and thread. Which I really should have.
There are some mildly sexist themes in the book, but nothing unexpected given the context (the women are considered strong and indispensable... but relatively useless when lacking the guidance of a man) and race issues are handled carefully, the author pointing out the issues of the 1950s south without becoming too preachy or self-satisfied when his heroes overcome their biases with ease. (NB: I say this as a white northerner, so feel free to disagree if your personal context allows you to see something I missed.)
It's a great post-apocalyptic survival tale, all told.
RatingRead it if...
You like survival tales, post-apocalyptic fiction, or just really well-written fiction.
The rest of the InternetA reflection on the book and its author, 50 years later.
LobaBlanca found Alas, Babylon to be far superior to The Road.
You can like the book on Facebook
Dhymna at Culinary Carnivale finds the book horribly underrated and overlooked on many lists of the best post-apocalyptic books.
Dame Durden at Dewey Decimal Shenanigans take issue with the idea that this is just another boring required-reading assignment.
Q at The Science Fiction Expert remarks on how optimistic the book is given the subject material.
The obligatoryWikipedia, LibraryThing and SparkNotes pages.