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Alas, Babylon

4.07  ·  Rating Details ·  30,867 Ratings  ·  2,444 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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Brandon Cannon Not really. It was the accepted way to be in that generation. I'm not saying it was right but that is simply not the author thought "good men" were…moreNot really. It was the accepted way to be in that generation. I'm not saying it was right but that is simply not the author thought "good men" were supposed to act. Nowadays it would not work. (less)
Brandon Cannon I think this is fairly accurate account for the time. Back when this book was written, the generation was a little closer to their farmer or Frontier…moreI think this is fairly accurate account for the time. Back when this book was written, the generation was a little closer to their farmer or Frontier style roots than we are today.
Today would be different. Today, we are so heavily medicated and spoiled to modern conveniences that we would not know what to do. (less)

Community Reviews

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Jeffrey Keeten
Dec 26, 2014 Jeffrey Keeten rated it really liked it
Shelves: post-apocalyptic
”And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication
and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for
her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning,
Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying,
Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one
hour is thy judgment come. “ Revelations

 photo AlasBabylon1stEd_zps41442c8f.jpg
The cover art of the American First Edition from 1959.

Randy Bragg comes from a long line of prestigious individuals. He, unfortunately, has never found a way to live
Dec 16, 2008 Alissa rated it it was ok
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



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
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
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
Apr 03, 2009 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.

I was born the year this novel came out, yet the times & mind set
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Apr 16, 2013 Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh rated it really liked it
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
Dec 23, 2008 Jon added it
Recommended to Jon by: Valerie Neer
Althea Ann
Sep 11, 2014 Althea Ann rated it liked it
A re-read - but, at my best guess, I previously read this just about exactly 30 years ago. It was a ubiquitous presence on library and bookstore shelves. (The paperback with this cover:

I couldn't have told you the details, but re-reading (for post-apocalyptic book club, of course), it was striking how certain images came back to me with such clear familiarity - the radiation burn around a woman's finger from irradiated jewelry, for example.

In style, the
Mar 20, 2008 Werner rated it really liked it
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
Jun 06, 2008 DeEllen rated it really liked it
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
Dec 18, 2011 Marvin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 25, 2016 Fortunr rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
This is a compelling, atmospheric book about the physical, social and emotional consequences of nuclear war in a small Florida community.
This book was written in 1959, when the dangers of a nuclear conflagration were not negligible, but it feels surprisingly modern and relevant to modern sensibilities.
The crescendo of tension bringing to the actual trigger of the nuclear catastrophe, as well as the description of the event itself, are quite memorable and feel very realistic – unsettlingly so.
Mary JL
Nov 24, 2008 Mary JL rated it liked it
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.
Jul 08, 2015 Ioana rated it liked it
2.5 stars, rounded up
As a historical relic, Alas, Babylon is fascinating. Written just as things were heating up during the Cold War, it displays a level of paranoia that seems outrageous/laughable today, depending on your disposition. Still, I have no doubt it's accurate as a gauge for the mood of swaths of the public at the time (I'm old enough to remember the 80s from the "other side" of the world - in Bucharest, we lived in fear of nuclear fallout from any bombings unleashed on the USSR, an
Jul 19, 2010 Zach rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: post-apocalyptic
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
Jan 02, 2014 David rated it really liked it  ·  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
May 18, 2008 Sandi rated it it was amazing
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
Liz Janet
Mar 13, 2015 Liz Janet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
I recently read that this book inspired John Lennon on his anti-war views, and that it also inspired many other books with the same topic. This is an amazing apocalyptic book that gives an inside into nuclear warfare and survivalism, and should be read with caution.
May 11, 2009 A.J. rated it really liked it
Shelves: dystopia
"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
May 07, 2013 Kelly rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, classics, sf
"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
Wayne Barrett
Jun 17, 2015 Wayne Barrett rated it really liked it
Actual 3.5 rating
I think something like Cormack McCarthy's 'The Road' might be a little more indicative of a post nuclear war world than what was presented here, but nevertheless, the story still brought home the reality of what could happen.
The book was written in the late 50's during the height of the atomic war fear and of course, technology was nowhere near what it is now. I think, even though we are not in a state of paranoia about nuclear was as they were then, we are a little more enlight
Apr 17, 2016 Carol. rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of the pastoral apocalypse
Recommended to Carol. by: Naomi
Alas, Babylon was one of the more perplexing literary experiences I’ve had this year. Written by Pat Frank, it’s the story of Randy Bragg and a small Florida town, Fort Repose, after America and the Soviet Union declare war in the late 1950s.

Randy’s doing nothing much in the family house in Fort Repose, Florida except drinking and charming local women–with the exception of his neighbor Florence, who suspects him of being a Peeping Tom–when his brother sends a cable with their code phrase, Alas,
An apocalyptic event for the polite. Alas, Babylon is a great read of an event without the blood and gore. Almost an event for the suburbs. The premise is that the world has ended in nuclear holocaust except for this little section of oasis. Oddly, the world continues on almost as if nothing has happened. Pat Frank has done an amazing job of hinting at the turmoil underneath, but does not end up being talked about in polite company. Southern hospitality rules this novel and it works, but it is a ...more
Jul 28, 2015 Steve rated it really liked it
It's no surprise that this book has stood the test of time. More than a half-century later, it still worked, delivering a sobering (if not profoundly depressing), poignant, thought-provoking, and, in moments, transcendent experience. It's definitely one of the best post-apocalyptic (more real than dystopian) pieces I've read, and I now wish I'd read it sooner.

Nuclear holocaust and its aftermath - more grounded and practical and contextual than the speculative out-of-context dystopias such as The
Jul 02, 2014 Sara rated it really liked it
What a book! What a challenging and hope-filled and inspiring book. I was terrified to read this book. Our world feels incredibly unstable at present and I was certain that this book would be incapable of giving me anything other than additional stress and anxiety. I was so wrong. Mercifully, I was so very wrong.

The most valuable lesson for me personally: there are no hopeless options in a nuclear war. This may sound trite but for me personally, it was a powerfully inspiring lesson to learn. I
Nov 15, 2008 Jen rated it really liked it
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
Feb 12, 2011 Jackie rated it liked it
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
Aug 12, 2008 Rachel rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 23, 2008 Valerie rated it really liked it
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.
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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 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 and informati ...more
More about Pat Frank...

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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.” 22 likes
“If Man retained faith in God, he might also retain faith in Man.” 15 likes
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