Sunday, April 19, 2009

Review: Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank

book 2 of 4 for the It's the End of the World Reading Challenge II
book 2 of 5 for the Classics Challenge 09
Genre: post apocalyptic fiction
Rating: 5/5

What if the tension between the USSR and America in the 50s ended less peacefully, maybe involving exploding warheads and a nuclear holocaust? How would the common American rural town cope in such a situation?

Such a situation is at the heart of Alas, Babylon. The tiny town of Fort Repose, Florida, manages to survive the initial onslaught - but moving forward in world suddenly transformed into the dark ages proves to be an even bigger challenge. Florida itself is beautifully described and its bounty and climate plays an essential role as haven and provider. Our main characters are just normal people, flawed yet with untapped strength that catastrophe and necessity bring to the forefront. Other characters, of course, use the disaster to get gain, prey on those who have supplies, or live in denial until it's too late.

More interesting than the characters though, for me, is just the situation they found themselves in and how they got inventive about making life work again. That part was certainly the most intriguing. When Frank switched to the more military side of things my interest waned a bit, but those parts didn't usually last long. I think, perhaps, that Fort Repose was almost a bit too spared - sometimes there seemed to be a few too many good coincidences, but I liked it that way. It's hard to have a story about a town's survival if everyone gets horrendous radiation sickness :)

This book is amazing because it felt completely plausible - it's quite a wake up call, I can imagine it scaring the pants off of people in the 60s, realizing how easily fiction could've become fact. The science felt authentic and the military side of it did too (as far as I could tell). I read this book in essentially one sitting, it was that good.


bermudaonion said...

I read this in high school or college and remember feeling the same way - that it could really happen. Great review.

Anna said...

I haven't heard of this one, but it sounds interesting. I like the concept.

Diary of an Eccentric

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