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Alas, Babylon

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  42,874 ratings  ·  3,491 reviews
“An extraordinary real picture of human beings numbed by catastrophe but still driven by the unconquerable determination of living creatures to keep on being alive.” —The New Yorker

“Alas, Babylon.” Those fateful words heralded the end. When the unthinkable nightmare of nuclear holocaust ravaged the United States, it was instant death for tens of millions of people; for sur
Paperback, 323 pages
Published July 5th 2005 by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (first published 1959)
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Joy I mostly agree with previous comment by Brandon Cannon.
It was a simpler time and there were still memories of a more basic lifestyle. Older survivors …more
I mostly agree with previous comment by Brandon Cannon.
It was a simpler time and there were still memories of a more basic lifestyle. Older survivors would have been able to help the younger ones sort it out.
For that matter, there are still a few older adults who would be able to help others adapt today.
The more serious issue is, would there be survivors? Weaponry is so much more powerful than it was then. Fallout more widespread. Hard to think about.(less)

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Average rating 4.08  · 
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Jeffrey Keeten
Dec 26, 2014 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
Dec 16, 2008 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
Nov 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
“Terrified at her torment, they will stand off and cry: ‘Woe! Woe to you, great city, you mighty city of Babylon! In one hour your doom has come!’”
- The Book of Revelation 18:10

“[Y]esterday was a past period in history, with laws and rules archaic as ancient Rome’s. Today the rules had changed, just as Roman law gave way to atavistic barbarism as the empire fell to Hun and Goth. Today a man saved himself and his family and to hell with everyone else…”
- Pat Frank, Alas, Babylon

“We can’t do this.



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 e
David Putnam
Dec 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read this book in high school and it had a major impact on me not only emotionally but it happened to spark a need to find and explore books of all genres, this my first foray into the postapocalyptical. I reread this one just a couple of years ago and even though it wasn't at all how I remembered it, the story and characters still held up and I loved it. That kind of benchmark says a lot about a book.

another great survival book! this one was surprising because it didn't feel dated at all, even though it was written in 1959. i 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 that i would more likely be holed up 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 ...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
Charles  van Buren
Review of Kindle edition
Publication date: June 4, 2013
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Language: English
Amazon.com Sales Rank: 283
371 pages

As I write this, there are 1,436 reviews on Amazon. About 70% five star and 20% four star. Most of the one star reviews are complaints about lack of proof reading and typographical errors in the Kindle edition. Most of those errors seem to have been corrected. There are also a few complaints about condition of used hard copies purchased from third p
RJ - Slayer of Trolls
This post-apocalyptic cautionary tale was published in 1959 in the post-Sputnik, pre-Cuban Blockade era when many Americans suspected we might be losing the Cold War arms race and that a nuclear holocaust was inevitable. Author Frank was interested in exploring not only the no-win outcome of a atomic war but also the utter lack of preparedness for such an event by the government and the general population. There's not much in the way of character arcs or even a solid plot, other than daily survi ...more
Apr 03, 2009 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 seem ver
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Apr 16, 2013 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 guppy, a
Michael || TheNeverendingTBR
Dec 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
As it was one of the first apocalyptic novels ever written, I wasn't expecting it to be brutal such as the likes of The Road by Cormac McCarthy but it was still a good story regardless.

I will say though that I think it was very unrealistic, like the rest of America is devastated with nuclear weaponry and the survivors in Florida are upbeat about it and very well prepared with dealing with everything. Like surviving, rebuilding and organising their resources is something they've been practicing,
Apr 17, 2016 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,
Sep 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pre-80s-sf
“The blast and sound wave covered them, submerging all other sound and feeling. Again the kitchenware and glasses and china danced. A delicate vase of Viennese crystal crumpled into powder and shards on the mantle. The glass protecting a meticulous and vivid still life, a water color by Lee Adams, shattered in its frame with a loud report.”

This book is a classic of the “post-apocalypse” genre, a granddaddy I suppose. First published in 1959, still in print today, with loads of online study guide
May 01, 2018 rated it liked it
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 egregiou
Althea Ann
Sep 11, 2014 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: https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327598...)

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
Jul 19, 2010 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
Dec 18, 2011 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
Mar 20, 2008 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 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
Oct 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: apocalyptic
The first thing that a reader, new to this book, has to remember is that it was first published in 1959, that’s nearly 60 years ago. This was when the world was in the grip of the, so called, cold war between the USA and USSR. During the Cold War the populous of the world lived in the shadow of a nuclear war. If you are of an age that you can remember the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 then you will know what that shadow felt like. At that time, two men, President John F. Kennedy of the USA. and M ...more
Mary JL
Nov 24, 2008 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.
An excellent, believable post-apocalypse novel set in the run up to and aftermath of a nuclear war. Compelling characters and shows its age less than I expected/feared. Kind of reads like a significantly condensed version of The Stand, I imagine King was heavily inspired by this. Surprisingly positive ending, which was a pleasant surprise.
Linda Robinson
Dec 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 18, 2008 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
Jul 08, 2015 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
Feb 25, 2016 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.
Dawn F
Apr 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: media-audible
Following a small Florida community’s survival after an atomic bomb ravages their Florida state homes, this is a surprisingly uplifting piece of post apocalyptic fiction. Don’t expect to read a real life account of living with the horrific effects of the bomb, as their area is pretty much on the outskirts and sheltered from radiation and the severe consequences thereof, even if it’s briefly mentioned. Horrible things do happen, but they’re off-screen or on-sceeen brought on by the people who liv ...more
This book is 60 years old, but well worth reading & not just for its influence on the genre. It's one of the first to deal with a post apocalyptic world after a nuclear war, so it's not pretty, but it is instructive on many levels & an entertaining read. It should be a Thanksgiving Day read in the US because it shows how much we have to be grateful for: electricity, clean water delivered to the tap, good food, medicines, medical care, & relative order.

Frank really sets the scene well. Fort Repos
May 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sf, classics, favorites
"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
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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

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