Alas, Babylon
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Alas, Babylon

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  20,803 ratings  ·  1,779 reviews
"Alas, Babylon." Those fateful words heralded the end. 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...more
Paperback, 323 pages
Published July 5th 2005 by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (first published 1959)
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Community Reviews

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Stephen
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NuclearWar-1v2

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4.5 to 5.0 stars. I think the above pictures and quotes express a lot better than my words ever could what I would like to say in this review about the power and eloquence of Pat Frank's 1959 story about the folly and danger of Nuclear war. I can not imagine a better novel about the immediate after-effects of a global nuclear war than what is presented here.

True, the fact that anyone is left alive after the war does tend to make the novel anachronistic. But since, a “war begins and everyone i...more
Alissa
This book was published in 1959, and it feels like it every step of the way. The plot is compelling enough, but the writing is incredibly wooden. I actually laughed out loud at some of the passages, and not in a nice way. The author drags us through 100 pages of rising action, which is annoying because it adds nothing to the plot, and we all know the bomb is going to hit before we even read the blurb on the back cover.

The racism and sexism are also pretty terrible. Even after the freakin' nucle...more
karen
another great survival book! this one was surprising because it didnt feel dated at all, even though it was written in 1959. it makes me wish there were maybe 200 more pages, particularly about rita, who is how i would want to be in the aftermath: shotgun. high heels. stockpiles.i love the image, but the reality is more that i would be in the library, probably rereading this book for tips. meta. to sum it up in a few words: armadillos, glasses, honey, kaboom. and two things i learned, to continu...more
Jon
Apr 01, 2013 Jon added it
Recommended to Jon by: Valerie Neer
Jim
Review May2013 Reading again with the "Books, Movies, TV and Life" group. It's been 4 years since I last read this. That's more often than I probably should, but I'll see how it goes.

Frank provides a very short introduction to the novel that is interesting. He was a journalist & had more than a passing knowledge of our strategic thinking of the time. His Wikipedia entry is quite brief.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pat_Frank

I was born the year this novel came out, yet the times & mind set...more
Michael
UPDATED below--in honor of a GR reading group

A satisfying account of a community surviving a nuclear Holocaust in isolation from the rest of the world. It was written in 1959, so it set a precedent for all the apocalypse literature that followed. Instead of the perhaps more plausible temporary survival of human society in Nevil Chute's "On the Beach", this tale of a rural central Florida community blessed with favorable winds on the day the missiles fly makes the story one of a successful long...more
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Jan 18, 2014 Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Fans of our planet and the continuation of the human race
Recommended to Florence (Lefty) by: Jim MacLachlan
Published in 1959 the classic apocalyptic novel that stunned the world! Late to the party I’ve read very little classic Sci-Fi, a wonderful introduction. Bit of a slow build-up but persevere, not until the bomb drops does it really get interesting. Then it’s all action played out by a diverse group of characters, plenty worthy of rooting for.
Because she shared my name I couldn’t help but love the gossipy old biddy that worked for Western Union & new everybody's business. "Florence is a gupp...more
Deellen
This is a letter I wrote to our family after reading this book. This book definitely gives you a lot to think about even if there isn't a nuclear holocaust, we could definitely find ourselves without resources for a number of other reasons. The people in the book had done no planning ahead, but managed to adapt. I think it is important to plan for the worst and hope for the best. Thus came the letter I drafted for our family....

Our Dearest Family,

Current events have given us a good reason to sto...more
Werner
Dec 20, 2013 Werner rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Fans of post-apocalyptic scenarios
Shelves: science-fiction
Even as a kid and a teen, I've always had a keen interest in fictional and dramatic post-apocalyptic scenarios; I've never tried to analyze why, but perhaps the appeal of this kind of speculation is that it speaks to deep-seated modern fears and concerns about the future that all of us feel. It's a theme that's been around in science fiction since the early 19th century. In the aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and under the tension of the Cold War, fear of nuclear war was pervasive, not only...more
Sandi
I read "Alas, Babylon" during a vacation to Mammoth at the end of August, 2005. We had no TV, no newspapers and no radio for 4 days. When we got home, we learned about the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina. As I watched news reports about the aftermath, I kept thinking back to the incidents in this book. It was just a bit spooky and it made me realize how unprepared I am for a major disaster. It also made me wonder if it's even possible to be truly prepared for a disaster. Maybe it's your...more
David
Jan 08, 2014 David rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Small-town Floridians, jezebels with radioactive jewelry
Pat Frank's Alas, Babylon is a classic novel of post-nuclear war survival. Set in Fort Repose, Florida, a tiny town that is missed by the nuclear missiles that level all major cities in the U.S., it is less Cold War science fiction than a survivalist epic.

The author of One Second After acknowledged this book as one of his inspirations, and the two books are very similar in many ways. Both feature the residents of a small Southern town forming a survivalist community in the wake of the collapse o...more
Jackie
Considering it was published in 1959, it's held up very well. I can see the events of the book and their consequences happening in such a way if the unthinkable were to happen today. People don't change much.
Alas, Babylon is a compelling read, drawing me into the central characters' lives and making me care what happens to them. For a post-apocalyptic novel, it wasn't all doom and gloom; some opportunistic thugs but far more good people working together to survive as a community. The author is...more
Mary JL
Feb 13, 2011 Mary JL rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone interested in politic or history or a story of human survival
Shelves: main-sf-fantasy
This was probably one of the very first "end of the world" novels I read and it is still one of the best.

At the very end, one characters asks "Who won?" and another replied "why, we did" and "turned to begin the thousand year night". So much for winning a nuclear war.

Very scary and depressing, and unfortunately all to real on what life would be like after a nuclear exchange.
Kelly
"The classic apocalyptic novel that stunned the world" is across the front cover of this book. It was written in 1959 when fear of the atomic bomb was all-encompassing so I can only imagine how stunned people were to read this book when it came out.

The last apocalyptic novel I read was The Road and it was incredibly depressing. This one wasn't...while at times this book was chilling, it was filled with goodness and hope. In fact, it was a mirror image of the way I've always pictured things woul...more
A.J.
"Your grandfather used to walk to school in Fort Repose. When he was your age there weren't any school busses. When he couldn't hitch a ride in a buggy, or one of the early automobiles, he walked." Randy put his arm around the boy's shoulder. "Let's get going. I guess we'll both have to learn to walk again."

Part of our life in the modern era––even after the collapse of the Soviet Union and all that went with it––is the silent understanding that one day, perhaps quite unexpectedly, the world migh...more
Valerie
Dec 23, 2008 Valerie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Valerie by: Mom
I read this when I was 10 or 11 because my mother believed that if I was physically capable of reading the words, I could read whatever books she had. I was terrified of nuclear war for the next five years. I'm actually still terrified by the idea, but I've learned to live with the fear. It would probably seem dated now, but it was a well done book when I read it.
Marvin
Alas, Babylon was written in 1959 and is part of what I call the Trifecta of Nuclear Cold War novels. The first is Fail Safe which addresses how Nuclear War can be easily triggered though human error and simple stupidity. The second is On the Beach which deals with the possible end of humankind due to nuclear war. The third is Alas Babylon which takes play immediately after a first nuclear attack and deals with the hardships of surviving a nuclear attack. All three together adequately portrays t...more
Zach
Well first off I have no idea why Day of the Triffids is always held up as the poster child of the cozy catastrophe phenomenon, because that is kind of this book's whole raison d'etre. What we have here, in fact, is a kind of anti-modern ode to the traditionally-minded small town communities of America, brought about (how else?) by means of the USSR removing the major cities of the nation and replacing them with smoking radioactive craters.

Did I mention this was published in 1959?

As a novel, th...more
Jen
This book is in my toolbox for good reason. When the stuff starts hitting the fan and getting flung far and wide, I will be hunkered down in the public library looking to locate the salt licks and not breaking into the shoe store for some new Converse. Of course, I could just buy a block of salt and wait patiently, but where's the fun in that?

For a person of potentially guilty proportions (Where were you, Jen, when your children were hungry and bleeding and the stuff hit the fan?) this book is...more
Linda Robinson
Frank's book was included in an article on the best post-apocalypse books, and it was the only one I'd not read. The characters are well written, which is what we hope for when the scenario is a given: nuclear holocaust causes chaos. How people react is all there is to write about when the power is out, salt, liquor, batteries, coffee and potable water are history. In this book, ammunition is still around late in the post-game, which seems weird, there's a firefight on a bridge that maybe needed...more
Christopher
This is the happiest apocalypse novel I've read. It's the anti-Cormac McCarthy apocalypse novel. And to be fair, it's not even an apocalypse novel, because only half of Americans die.

But anyway, it's the happiest book-of-this-nuclear-holocaust-slash-zombie-slash-flu-epidemic-type I've read. Sure, it starts out with the Cold War fear that Russia is going to A-bomb or H-bomb or something-bomb all of the major military bases in ye olde United States (fears that soon become reality, as our Fort Rep...more
Hugh Forte
I liked it. A quick, easy read, and an interesting look into the socio-political fabric of Cold War era, small-town America.

What struck me most about this book (and perhaps because of it's shining reviews), was that the majority of the book carried little emotional impact, stemming from a lack of conflict. One could argue that the setting of world wide nuclear destruction is conflict enough (which for the audience this was published for in 1959, it surely was), but the lack of smaller scale, ch...more
Spuddie
Post-apocalyptic fiction, a classic written the year after I was born, which I've been meaning to read for years. The scene is set for a devastating nuclear event when Randy Bragg, small-town lawyer in central Florida, receives a telegram from his brother Mark, a military intelligence man, that informs him that his wife and kids will be joining Randy in Florida the next day and ends with the cryptic phrase, 'Alas, Babylon' which is a code word between them for impending disaster. Randy does the...more
Kelly
Now I know what's meant by a "cozy catastrophe."

Alas, Babylon was probably a lot more frightening in the Cold War era when it was a huge bestseller, but we're wiser now. We know what nuclear fallout can do. We've seen and read apocalypses that are far more bleak --and realistic.

While the bombing of the US is by no means a fun scenario, the main characters in Alas, Babylon, with some work, see their lives improved post-catastrophe. By the end, the neighborhood is practically Utopian.

The book is...more
Kevin
How would react to no electricity, no food at the grocery store, no sanitation, and no clean water? Could you survive?

Paranoid? You may be after you read this book. Written in 1959, Frank captures, at least I think he captures, the mood of many US citizens during the heart of the Cold War. In elementary school I remember having to hide under desk, with my hands behind my head and knees pulled up to my chest. I remember that the Russians didn't like the Americans and didn't come to the Olympics i...more
Brandi
I've now read this book twice. It's a quick read, and I've enjoyed it both times.

This book speaks of hope that exist beyond terrible tragedy. People can be cruel, and yet those who choose to can survive and live a life of service and caring. It's thought provoking. What would you do if your government couldn't help or didn't exist at all? Would you take charge? Would you help those you could, or always be looking out for yourself? What about public rules? Would they just disappear? What about if...more
Rachel
Some ideas I got from this book.

1. People will react to a crisis depending on their foundation: some will rise to the occassion, some will turn to evil and some will simply opt out because they can't face the challenge.

2. The teachings and concepts of Christianity aren't dependent on prosperity and peace to endure. In fact, they have their greatest hour in times of trial and crisis.

3. Barter is a legitimate form of trade, and it is a good idea to have a skill that can be bartered.

4. Acquire life...more
Jenn Myers
Apr 27, 2007 Jenn Myers rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: end of the world enthusiast, classical readers
I picked this book up because both Liz and Eve read it, and I'm a sheep like that.

The first third of the book is waiting for the horrors of nuclear war to happen, and then the last two thirds are about how, with enough American Ingenuity, Johnny American can survive the best that those dirty Ivans can throw at us! Hurrah!

So. Even though I found the book painfully dated, (it was written in 1959,) it was an easy enough read, with likable enough characters, and some truly stunning scenes where I ha...more
Andrew
I'm surprised this book hasn't become more popular with the birth (and re-birth) of the CBS show Jericho, which borrows both premise and key conflicts from Pat Frank's novel.

In the midst of the Cold War, Frank wrote this novel in part to depict what exactly MAD entailed. His protagonist, Randy Bragg, struggles to hold onto his neighborhood and some semblance of civilization in the wake of a nuclear exchange between Russia and the US. Shortly after its publication, Alas, Babylon was handed out to...more
Parajunkee
In my further quest for Post-Apocalyptic goodness my frequent Google searches led me to another book, ALAS, BABYLON. What is more apocalyptic than nuclear war? This is a man made disaster, so much more tragic than anything that Mother Nature could do not us. I was eager to read and my eagerness paid off. This is a classic gem that came out in the 50s but still holds fervor in today’s chaotic political climate. The Cold War might be over, but a lunatic with a nuclear warhead is still just as scar...more
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"Pat Frank" was the lifelong nickname adopted by the American writer, newspaperman, and government consultant, who was born Harry Hart Frank (1908-1964), and who is remembered today almost exclusively for his post-apocalyptic novel Alas, Babylon. Before the publication of his first novel Mr. Adam launched his second career as novelist and independent writer, Frank spent many years as a journalist...more
More about Pat Frank...
Mr. Adam Forbidden Area Hold Back The Night Rendezvous At Midway: U.S.S. Yorktown And The Japanese Carrier Fleet (Paperback Library) How to Survive the H-Bomb...and Why

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“I love you. I worry about you. I wonder whether I tell you enough how I love you and want you and need you and how I am diminished . . . when you are not with me and how I am multiplied when you are here.” 12 likes
“If Man retained faith in God, he might also retain faith in Man.” 11 likes
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