Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank

August 29, 2013 Classics, Dystopian, Frightening 30

Howdy Bookworms,

There’s a good chance I’ve been watching too much Doomsday Preppersbut you know I love a good post apocalyptic novel. It had been a while since I’d read one, so when Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank came up as a sale item on Amazon this month I jumped on it. Alas, Babylon was published in 1959, which for all of you scholars out there was at the height of the Cold War. The threat of the US and the USSR blowing each other to smithereens with nuclear bombs was palpable.

Alas, BabylonAlas, Babylon takes the leap into the “what if.” What if the USSR had nuked many of the major cities in the US? What if a small pocket of Florida remained untouched while the rest of the state was saturated in radiation? What if the power went out… Forever? I love a good apocalypse story, and this is one of the best I’ve ever read. It’s funny that something written 54 years ago could still be so relevant, but it absolutely is. Those of us living today in the digital age would be facing the exact same predicament as the folks in the 50s… Except a little worse, because OMG what would we do without the INTERNET?!

One of my favorite shows in the last ten years was JerichoIt was a tragically short lived drama (2006-2008, RIP) about a small town in Kansas in the aftermath of nuclear devastation in the US. The hit sites were very similar to those in Alas, Babylon, but instead of Russia being behind the bombs, it was a mysterious conspiracy. Obviously, since this book came out decades before that show, it’s almost impossible that the creators of the show were not influenced by this book. I LOVE THEM BOTH!

It had everything! People’s reactions to disasters always fascinate me. First there’s the disbelief that anything of this magnitude could happen. The shock. The panic. The looting of the stores. The lawlessness that inevitably arises when food and supplies run low. You’ve got the ingenuity of people re-learning how to do things the “old fashioned” way and the rise of the highwaymen. I picked up this book and I could not put it down. It was that awesome. Of course, I’m now slightly paranoid about nuclear war and kind of want to get a Geiger counter to keep in my basement, but what else is new? I’m highly susceptible to suggestion. This is why I don’t watch infomercials, because HOT DAMN that Forever Lazy looks like a good idea.

What about you, bookworms? Do you like post apocalyptic novels? A good dystopia? Do they make you want to stockpile things and build a bunker? No? That’s just me? I should probably stop watching Doomsday Preppers, shouldn’t I?

30 Responses to “Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank”

  1. theliterarylollipop

    Contagion, though freakishly realistic, is a great example of how people react to large scale disasters. (Stephen King does this well – putting people in pressure cooker situations, and letting them run amok.) I’ve never seen Jericho but I’ve heard only fantastic things about it… and ya gotta love Skeet Ulrich. Good ole Skeet.

  2. Ashley F

    My brain totally went on a tangent as soon as I read Florida being saturated in radiation. All I could picture was like Zombie Mutant Crocodiles.

    • Words for Worms

      Bwahahahahahaha!!! This is the best thing ever. You should copyright that before the Sci/Fi channel steals your idea and makes a movie of it. My Father in Law would watch it!

  3. Karen H

    I love post-apocolyptic novels. I always wonder, when reading them, how basic knowledge seem to be lost so quickly – reading, writing, a country’s history. I recently read “Earth Abides” by George R. Stewart. It was written in 1949, but is relevant today. It offers a good explanation as to why knowledge might be lost.

    I also liked “Eternity Road” by Jack McDevitt. Jack McDevitt mostly writes about a future where mankind has prospered, and has travelled deeply into space (which I also love). “Eternity Road” isn’t quite so cheery, but a good read.

    Last but not least, “Wastelands” which is an anthology of post-apocolyptic stories.

    Since this is my favorite type of story, I could go on and on listing titles, but I’ll leave it with these 3 favs.

    Oh! Can’t forget “I am Legend”. So much better than the movie.

    • Words for Worms

      Gah! My TBR list is expanding. These sound so good! I especially like this type of story when it’s got a semi-hopeful ending. Like, in Alas, Babylon, life won’t go back to the way it was, but you know, it’s still worth living. And yes, I am Legend was a fabulous book. Completely different from the movie (though I really liked the dog, and Bob Marley.)

  4. Leah

    I love dystopia (when done well), but I don’t think I’ve actually read a post-apocalyptic novel. I should probably remedy that.

    • Words for Worms

      This one was very good. Also, The Road by Cormac McCarthy (though incredibly depressing.) Post-apocalypse and dystopia are like cousins. Remember how much cooler the CareBears got when they included different animal types in their “cousins”? Like that. Excellent partners, the two. (And I don’t say that simply because the CareBear cousins included Cozy Heart Penguin. Well. Maybe a little.)

  5. tinykitchenstories

    Always love The Stand for post-apocalyptic novels, and there’s another one hovering around my addled brain that I just can’t place at the moment. Hope to remember later to share! I couldn’t watch I Am Legend past a certain point, because I knew the dog was going to die. I just couldn’t take it!

    • Words for Worms

      THE STAND. Agreed, one of the very best! (I knew the dog wasn’t going to make it in the movie either, and I totally cried when the inevitable occurred.)

    • Words for Worms

      I don’t think it was really based on the book, but it was a similar story, so I connected them. I find it hard to believe the show creators wouldn’t have been influenced by the book, but it’s not like an adaptation or anything. Both rock pretty hard though.

  6. Rory

    JERICHO, a clear case of gone too soon. I miss Skeet Ulrich. This book sounds about perfect.I go back and forth between thinking disaster prepping is a good idea and that it is completely crazy. And I live in Denver, so I live in a potentially targeted area. Ugh, the stress.

    • Words for Worms

      Yeah I’m sort of in the middle of nowhere, but I’ve heard our town is considered a target because a ginormous manufacturer is headquartered here, so yeah. But! You’ll be relieved to know that DENVER was in fact, the new US capitol in Alas, Babylon. DC was vaporized.

  7. Lillian Connelly

    Just reading this review makes me want to learn how to can vegetables. Of course, I need to actually grow enough to can first. I am doomed! I

  8. tinykitchenstories

    I haven’t remembered the other book I mentioned, but I just got my Goodreads email, and there’s a book called Rivers by Michael Farris Smith, about how everyone had to move north after too many hurricanes have hit the Gulf Coast. No electricity, no rule of law….another hurricane on the way. Apocalyptic enough for you? I’m up for it!

  9. Samantha

    I adore dystopian novels, and often wish I could come up with an entirely different society. I have read less post-apocalyptic type novels, but The Stand is definitely my favorite. But dystopian, I loved Brave New World, A Handmaid’s Tale, The Hunger Games (which honestly surprised me for how well it was done), etc.

  10. Wayne

    I still remember “The Day After” which is a TV movie made about the after effects of nuclear war on a small town. Pretty grim stuff. *The Stand* is not my favorite King novel. It seems bloated and contrived. Give me something like *The War Of The Worlds* which H.G. Wells did a wonderful job with.

  11. Sarah Says Read

    Oh man, I should read this and see if it’s something that the honeyman would like – he’s my own real-life Doomsday Prepper. People for some reason poke fun at the prepper thing, but if anything happens and there’s a hurricane / earthquake / nuclear war / EMP / zombies happening, we got our bases COVERED.

    Jericho, that was good? Should I watch it, or did they end it far too abruptly without wrapping anything up?

    • Words for Worms

      Jericho was awesome, but it got cancelled after one season. The viewers got all irate and managed to squeeze an extra half-season out of the network to wrap things up. The second season kind of sucked because it was obviously an afterthought, but still. It felt like a victory.

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