August 31, 2006

Alas, Babylon!

Long ago, I had just read four or five post-apocalyptic books in the space of about a year, including Stephen King's "The Stand" and Niven and Pournelle's "Lucifer's Hammer", and I asked for feedback about other good post-apocalyptic books. One of the most often recommended books to me was Pat Frank's "Alas, Babylon!", a post-nuclear war story set in the heat of the 1950's or 1960's Cold War.

In this world, the Russians and Americans are aggressively poking at each other all the time, and the war begins like something out of Clancy's "Red Storm Rising". It quickly escalates into a massive nuclear exchange, and most of Florida's major population centers are wiped out. Randy Bragg, a resident of a small town in Central Florida, gets a little bit of advance warning from a relative and so has a couple of days to prepare.

Then the nukes go off, and the rest of the book deals with how this small town (especially Randy and his extended family and neighbors) struggles to survive despite avoiding heavy damage or significant nuclear contamination. It was only a little bit dated, and the main characters were fairly well fleshed out and likeable. I would've liked to read more, but the plot kind of skips ahead in time, overlooking the resolution of some issues I wanted to read more about, finally coming to an end several months after the attack.

Definitely one of the classic finishing lines of dialogue, but you can really only appreciate it if you have read the book.

Posted by Observer at August 31, 2006 10:04 PM
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I love the post-apocalyptic subgenre.

Just this week I learned about "Where am I now?", a weekly webcomic (although it's not normally funny) about some robots trying to survive after all humans are gone. Very moving.

http://www.moderntales.com/comics/wain.php

Posted by: Humbaba on September 1, 2006 08:56 AM

The funny thing is that this book was recommended to me back in about 1992 or 1993. Around the end of '93, I made a trip to Portland with a whole bunch of recommendations written down (feedback from all the book reviews I had posted online). I went into Powell's books and came out with about three bags of paperbacks, about $150 poorer.

Many of those are still sitting on my "to read" shelf 13 years later. I just now got around to "Alas, Babylon!" and my goal is to clear that shelf by around the 20 year mark. By then, maybe M*chelle and I will be able to afford a nice vacation to the Northwest and we can go to Powell's again.

Posted by: Observer on September 1, 2006 11:55 AM

Ok, I was going to try to pick this up last night, but I forgot the author's name. D'oh!

Posted by: Humbaba on September 2, 2006 10:52 AM